It’s hard to believe, but Chicago Cares’ Serve-a-thon will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year on June 15. When I reflect back on the communities served and volunteers mobilized since 1994, I’m humbled by all that Chicago Cares—and those who have rallied with and around us—have been able to achieve.
This summer, our children need us more than ever. Many of the city’s neighborhoods have been challenged by violence, and these problems are often magnified in the summer when children no longer have the structure or support of their schools. While many things need to be done to solve these challenges, volunteer service is central to the answer. That’s why Chicago Cares will leverage Serve-a-thon as a natural platform from which to launch expanded programming during the critical summer months and beyond—providing at-risk youth with a safe and structured learning environment, and Chicagoans at large with an outlet to come together and make a difference through action.
Information is forthcoming about all of the ways to get involved but, for now, I encourage you to take the first step by registering for the 20th Annual Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon, showing your commitment through action and financial support.
Together, let’s be the solution!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As part of our month-long service in honor of Dr. King, children at many Chicago Cares programs participated in special activities. These MLK special projects shared the legacy of Dr. King with a new generation and promoting the ideas of peace, freedom, and love. “I’ve never seen the students so engaged in a book or activity” community partner Whitney Nash at Mercy Housing shared. Together, children and volunteers read books, participated in discussions, created murals and “I Have a Dream” mobiles to honor Dr. King.
To many, the most meaningful part of the activities was learning what dreams these young children have: safe neighborhoods, clean parks, a college education, and an end to pollution, animal cruelty, and violence. Many children spoke with volunteers about ways to make peaceful change in their lives and share these beliefs with their friends, family, and neighbors. We can only hope that these children continue to follow their dreams!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It’s hard to put 2012 in perspective just a few days after 27 people were gunned down in Connecticut (including 20 six and seven year olds), not to mention the dozens of Chicago children killed by violence every year. We start to feel like violence is all around us. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who held my child a little tighter this weekend and wondered what kind of world I was leaving her. It is easy to feel helpless and hopeless when confronted with such evil.
But, every time I feel that hopelessness, I find that volunteering provides a sure remedy. Seeing our volunteers in action reminds me that there is so much good in the world. This Saturday a group of volunteers shepherded dozens of children through the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World exhibit. Others cooked breakfast and played bingo with low-income seniors. On Friday, a group from Discover made blankets for homeless shelters. All over the city, hundreds of volunteers came together in service this weekend.
Our volunteers do more than educate our children, reduce isolation and depression among seniors, feed the hungry and clean up our schools and parks. Every time you volunteer, you create community. And that community gets bigger and stronger every time you join a project. They and them become we and us.
We is a powerful word. WE make a difference. They sit at home and wonder why our schools are failing. We get off our butts and read to children from May Elementary in Austin, helping eight year olds learn to love reading. They look at a vacant lot and shake their fists at the trash. We gather together and turn emptiness into a learning garden like we did at Schmid Elementary in Pullman. They shake their heads at a senior citizen holding up the bus. We laugh and cry at senior breakfast, building friendship and community instead of isolation and depression.
As 2012 comes to an end, I thank all of you for your service to Chicago this year. I urge all of you to re-commit to volunteering in 2013 so we can continue to build a stronger Chicago.
Yours in service,
PS We always welcome your support as a volunteer AND as a donor. Please make a contribution to our work. Your $25 donation buys bingo prizes for senior breakfast club or art supplies for an after school program. Without your time and/or financial support, our programs simply would not exist for the over 270 community organizations we partner with every year.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Have you ever wondered how a Chicago Cares program starts? All programs start with an idea about how Chicago Cares volunteers could serve an organization and their clients. Next is a site visit where Chicago Cares staff meet with community partners to discuss their needs and figure out how Chicago Cares volunteers can help address those needs through an ongoing program. From that point, all programs need help from donors and volunteers in order to get them started. Children’s programs in particular require a large amount of support to get them off the ground.
At a visit with a potential children’s education site, we may learn that the community partner is unable to offer any structured programming to students, and we are able to meet this need by developing an academic or extracurricular program to encourage and inspire children as they grow into young adults. Or, we might be able to free up a couple hours of the activity director’s time twice a month by leading the after school activity for that day, so that he or she can concentrate on a grant proposal or developing a new program for clients.
For all of our children’s programs, we rely on volunteer leaders to facilitate the programs we develop and volunteers to provide individualized attention for the children. What we also rely on are the generous donations from volunteers, our corporate partners, and foundations. This funding helps purchase cooking supplies for Healthy Start, books for Read-with-Me, or a volleyball net for Sports League. It helps us purchase watercolors for Young Artists, magnifying glasses for Science Sleuths, and even helps us program coordinators travel to and from the sites we work with as we continuously meet with our community partners to learn how we can make our impact even greater.
Funding to Chicago Cares is far reaching. A donation’s impact does not end at the project it funds. Donating through our I Care campaign is a great way to support the programs where you volunteer. Chicago Cares projects are part of the after-school and wraparound services provided to students that have shown an increase in student attendance, academic success, social development and improved attitudes and behaviors. Chicago Cares is proud to be even a small part of the great successes our partners have had from enrichment programs and partnerships at their sites.
This year, Chicago Cares volunteers logged over 5,500 hours serving more than 1,000 children at our community partners. From tutoring to reading to art and games, Chicago Cares volunteers provide essential individual attention, support, and encouragement at a variety of programs. Please consider making a contribution to children’s programs at Chicago Cares so that we can continue to turn our site visits into successful ongoing education programs.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
No matter how many toys, playdates or pool visits are planned, boredom seems to creep into every family’s summer one way or another. At Chicago Cares, we believe that volunteering is one of the best ways to beat the summer blahs, and it has the added benefit of building a better community and a stronger family. So, why should your children volunteer?
Volunteering promotes positive choices
The recipients of service are not the only ones to see the benefits of volunteering. Studies show that children who serve others are less likely to become involved in at-risk behaviors. Along with providing positive, structured activities, volunteering nourishes caring values in children as they relate to and empathize with others. Volunteer service can also serve as a platform to highlight and discuss pressing issues youth face, such as teen pregnancy, academic struggles, substance abuse, and violence.
Volunteering Heightens Development
A 2002 study found that children who volunteer develop positive self-confidence and show an increase in moral reasoning. Service to others can also increase social development as children practice social skills and gain a stronger sense of social responsibility. Through volunteering, you and your child can increase your intellectual capabilities as you are presented with new tasks, and opportunities to apply those skills you’ve recently learned.
Volunteering Teaches Life Skills
Many volunteer opportunities may teach children skills such as how to use a hammer, cook a meal or tend a garden. Even greater than these technical skills, however, are the life lessons that come with becoming a volunteer. Responsibility, reliability, punctuality and team work are just some of the foundational skills that your child will learn through service to others.
Volunteering Improves the Community
As children volunteer, they become valuable contributors to their community, and experience an increase in civic pride. A report from the William T. Grant Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship states,
“There is virtually no limit to what young people can do, no social need they cannot help meet, and giving young people the opportunities to serve enable them to become contributors, problem-solvers, and partners with adults in improving their communities and larger society.”
Volunteering Builds a Lifelong Ethic of Service
Signing up for a few volunteer projects may conquer boredom for a while, but even more importantly, volunteering has a long-term payoff. Research shows that the earlier children are involved in volunteering, the higher the probability of them volunteering during adolescence and possibly later in life. By growing the core value of service in your children, you are preparing them to become adults who are passionate about their communities and focused on using their skills and talents to help those in need.
Volunteering is FUN
Besides all of the positive benefits listed above, probably the most important part of volunteering is the chance to go out and have a great time with your family! Whether you are playing BINGO with a group of seniors, tending a community garden, or helping sort clothes for a homeless shelter; serving alongside your family will be an experience that you all can enjoy, which is definitely something to feel good about!
Chicago Cares currently has projects available for children as young as 8 years old (all children under 16 must have a parent or guardian attend with them.) If you would like to find out more about family volunteer opportunities, visit our website, and we’ll help you find the right project for your family.
To view the full report and study citations mentioned in this blog post, please visit serviceleader.org.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
On February 5th, Chicago Cares will start ongoing programs at Fuller Elementary. Our first new school in 2011! Fuller Elementary, located in Bronzeville, serves students K-8 and focuses on excellence for all.
“All children are capable of success, NO EXCEPTIONS!” says Principal Dr. Kennedy.
Along with Dr. Kennedy and new assistant principal Ms. Block, the faculty and family members are thrilled to have Chicago Cares provide opportunities for their students beyond the regular school day. Already thinking ahead, Ms. Block can only imagine how great this partnership can be; she already has plans to serve not only her students but their family members this fall. Between Dr. Kennedy’s long history at Fuller and Ms. Block’s enthusiasm in her first year, we could not be more thrilled at the possibilities. Being welcomed into the Fuller family is both a privilege and an honor!
Not only are we rolling out a new school, but also an all new program called Explore Chicago! This program uses Chicago’s colorful history, culture, politics, and arts to build student’s reading, writing, and artistic abilities. Explore Chicago will get students out of the normal classroom setting and will help them learn through experience. Whether you’re new to the city or a life-long resident, Explore Chicago is a fantastic way to learn and share stories about Sweet Home Chicago. And less we forget, a volunteer favorite, Fuller Sports League will also begin in early February. Athletic skills not needed, just the ability to model good sportsmanship and have fun! Whether you’re new to volunteering or a seasoned pro, Fuller is the perfect site to be involved. “Fuller goes that extra mile” and you should, too. Come see for yourself on February 5th…and who knows, you may just become an honorary Fuller Falcon!
To sign up for one of these programs, please click on the appropriate link:
(Explore Chicago! at Fuller and Fuller Sports League kick-off at 9:50 AM on February 5th, just a few blocks from the Green Line and the 43rd Street Bus. Both programs are still searching for the perfect team coordinator to make the programs soar; to learn more about volunteer and leader opportunities visit our website at www.chicagocares.org.)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )