This is the last blog post of the year and the gist of it is simple, so I’ll save you some time. We are asking that you make a special gift to Chicago Cares today! You’ve probably already heard a lot about I Care in the other emails you’ve received. In case you didn’t have an opportunity to read them all, I Care is not a hot new product from Apple, though we’d love to have that kind of exposure. I Care is an annual appeal for donations for the projects, programs and the organization you know and love: Chicago Cares.
If you’re reading this, chances are you have a relationship with Chicago Cares. Maybe you’re a faithful long-time volunteer or leader. You could be a loyal staff or board member. Maybe you just Googled “volunteer, Chicago” and you stumbled upon our website. No matter how you discovered this blog today, welcome!
As volunteers, we serve from the heart, but service costs time and money. Your donation to Chicago Cares is crucial and extends to people all over the community.
When you sign up for a volunteer project with Chicago Cares, you want to help – and we make it easy. Chicago Cares provides hundreds of books for children’s programs every week. If you pass a school and there’s a huge map of the United States on the playground, Chicago Cares probably provided the stencil, the paint, as well as the volunteers to get the project done. Maybe you’ve seen an overgrown, unruly garden on Friday that’s tame and beautiful on Saturday? Often, that’s the work of Chicago Cares volunteers. We pride ourselves on living our mission – mobilizing and inspiring people to make Chicago a stronger community. With the assistance of a robust corps of volunteers and leaders we can pull off unimaginable feats of service. Our staff takes pride in the projects we create and manage but we cannot do it without you.
So, return that terrible sweater or that useless kitchen gadget you received just a few days ago, and pay it forward to Chicago Cares. We want to say thank you for your hours of dedication throughout this year; our city and our fellow citizens truly appreciate it. As the year comes to a close and you’re thinking ahead to your goals and resolutions for 2013, please consider a donation to Chicago Cares today. It’s not too late to make a difference.
Senior Officer, Corporate RelationsRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Youth in Service doesn’t exist to host Senior Breakfast Clubs on the weekend. Youth in Service doesn’t exist to plant a vegetable garden for a malnourished community. And Youth in Service doesn’t exist to bag lunches to donate to a food pantry to feed hungry families.
We do not serve to see the genuine grins on the faces of the people we are helping. We do not serve because we want to change someone’s day for the good.
Yes, we do all of these things. Yes, we love all of these responses.
However, the youth groups that serve through Youth in Service serve to BE the change, not just to make a change. Our youth that serve want to be the change in our community that makes a lasting impact on our world and paves the way for generations to come.
Our groups of youth, aged 8 to 18 years, who volunteer through Youth in Service, are the future of our world. With each seemingly small project, we strive to engage, educate, and empower our volunteers to continue serving the community by illustrating the powerful impression each person has in helping the future generations of Chicago and the world.
One project at a time, Chicago Cares Youth in Service is able to work with youth volunteers to serve many issue areas: seniors, homelessness and hunger, children’s education, persons with disabilities, environmental issues, and anything they can imagine. Allowing these youth to take the lead and work together is truly empowering and makes a difference on how they view the world and how they view the meaning of service.
I have been fortunate enough to work with students from Mather High School this past month and will continue doing so for the rest of the school year. From day one it was clear that they want to help others, but weren’t really sure how. After serving at their first Youth in Service project last Saturday, the students are better able to relate to people unlike themselves and better understand the needs of our community.
Help continue bettering Chicago and the world by starting with this amazing generation by making a donation through the Chicago Cares I Care campaign. Invest in small project, like a $150 Senior Breakfast Club that not only provides a fun and nutritious meal for senior citizens, but also teaches youth the importance of service.
Written By Danika Marcano
HandsOn AmeriCorps Member
Youth in ServiceRead 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 )
This Thanksgiving I led a project at a Chicago Housing Authority building for low income, independent living seniors. I knew I wanted to do this because A) it would give me something fun to do with my family who always volunteers with me (sometimes whether they want to or not), B) I love going to this particular building to volunteer, and C) I honestly didn’t have very much planned for Thanksgiving myself. My extended family is mostly older now. There are a few kids but most of us are grown now and we do our own thing. This means that holidays sometimes aren’t as festive as they once were for me.
With that in mind, I started planning one humdinger of a Thanksgiving for this group of seniors. Ten volunteers signed up to help make this project happen. The menu consisted of all the staples: turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, tossed salad, multigrain rolls, and mashed potatoes and gravy. I bought all this food planning on feeding about 50 people, but I honestly didn’t think we would have much of a turn out. I just figured since this was an independent living facility that most of the residents who came would just come to pick up a plate of food and then would leave to go hang out with their family. That was not the case.
As the room filled I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have much family to be around on Thanksgiving. One of the residents who I had met before and who I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with told me this was all she had planned for that day. After the meal and bingo she was going to go upstairs and watch TV. Another lady told me her family lived far away and her friends at the building were all she had for the holiday. Yet another woman told me she loves Chicago Cares, and would rather be with us and her friends at the building. After hearing all of their stories I quickly became thankful for the opportunity I had to bring this sense of community to these residents who would not have had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with anyone if it weren’t for Chicago Cares.
Chicago Cares seniors programming is grounded in this very idea: regular social contact for seniors leads to a higher overall quality of life that allows them to remain independent longer [i] . Yes, it’s always great to feed those who are food insecure. And yes, it’s great to provide budget relief to those who have to decide between paying their bills or filling their prescriptions. But I think the service we provide that is the most needed is building a sense of community. Many seniors don’t have a large social circle to pull from. For many, their families and friends have moved on, or passed away, and the only circle they have are their neighbors. Our programming provides a fun and safe environment for seniors to build that sense of fellowship with one another. And studies have shown that one of the secrets to longevity is having a quality social circle that you can depend on.
Your donation to Chicago Cares seniors programming through our I Care Campaign will make sure that we can continue to provide a fun, open, and engaging space for seniors to build their community and continue to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives. $25 will provide the bingo prizes for one night of bingo. $50 will provide a hot breakfast for a group of 20 seniors.
[i] Tomaka, J., and Thompson, S and Palacios, R. (2006) The Relation of Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Social Support to Disease Outcomes Among the Elderly. Department of Health Promotion, University of Texas at El Paso.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Each September, Discover Financial Services provides opportunities for its employees to make an impact in their community. This year, business units throughout the company participated in large-scale projects such as painting schools, constructing outdoor classrooms, landscaping residential campuses, hosting Kids’ Olympics for underserved students, and clearing and rejuvenating underused areas within nonprofits to allow them to expand programming. As in years past, Chicago Cares was privileged to partner with several Discover business units during Discover Cares month. We engaged over 1,000 volunteers in service to 15 different nonprofits and schools in the Chicagoland area. As part of their partnership with Chicago Cares, Discover volunteers dedicated 5,787 hours of service to those in need.
This year, Chicago Cares chose Discover Financial Services to receive our Corporate Star Award. Their commitment, drive, dedication and unwavering support inspire us. Please join us in congratulating their spirit of volunteerism!
We love working with Discover teams. Volunteering is at the heart of their corporate culture and it shows. They arrive on their days of service focused, results-oriented, and ready to work! Upon hearing it might rain the day of his team’s project, one volunteer leader spent the night before trying to figure out a way to secure the pergola his volunteers would be building without having to anchor it in the mud. A team from another business line brought their considerable (and apparently undisclosed) artistic skills to make one of the most beautiful MLK, Jr. murals we’ve ever seen. Yet another Discover employee brought our project model for fall-themed decorations at Lambs Farm to the next level by showing off his impressive technique with a jigsaw. Discover employees are a talented crew. What’s even more notable is their treatment of community service. They take it as seriously as they do their daily work.
Why would a company like Discover encourage its employees to forgo an entire day of productivity to spend it serving the needs of others? Their HR team may have seen studies showing that corporate volunteering develops teamwork, strengthens company loyalty, and improves morale. But Kimberly Cross, Senior Associate of Community Affairs at Discover, says it’s more than that. It’s what they do and who they are. Simply stated, “Volunteerism is one of our core values at Discover. We support volunteer initiatives that empower our employees to make a difference.” Could there be anything better than working for a company that encourages you to use your skills, energy, and talents to meet needs in our community?
If you work for Discover or another company that provides opportunities to volunteer with your colleagues – Congratulations! For others who are still working on it, here are words of advice from Ms. Cross: “Company engagement starts at the top. I would encourage others to get their CEO and other upper level management involved. This can set the tone for a volunteer initiative. Align your efforts with your company mission or focus. If possible, form a volunteer committee or identify key players in the organization that can assist you when executing the initiatives you would like to engage employees in. Use as many communication vehicles as possible to get the word out to employees. Identify a form of measurement so you can tie the results of your efforts back to the business.”
And if you need a partner in service to make things go smoothly, call us at Chicago Cares! We’ve been helping companies make a difference in Chicago for 20 years.
Written by Stacey Rago
Senior Officer, Corporate RelationsRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This holiday season, Chicago Cares volunteers will make sure that hungry people across the city receive a warm meal, young children are nurtured through reading programs, and seniors are able to socialize with members of our community.
These programs would not exist without financial support from caring citizens like you. Donations help make possible the many programs that Chicago Cares creates and manages each month–programs that provide critical support to thousands of people all over Chicago.
Giving money isn’t just about keeping Chicago Cares running. Just like giving your time, donating money is an important expression of your values. By giving to Chicago Cares, you connect to others in a profound way. The act of giving shows that you care about your community, and are willing to make an even deeper commitment.
Donating to Chicago Cares is one of the smartest investments in your community that you can make — Chicago Cares is one of only 9% of nonprofits to receive Charity Navigator’s four-star rating four years in a row, with over 85% of every dollar going directly into our programs.
Donating money is an incredibly personal decision, and one we hope you’ll consider today. Chicago Cares programs make a difference in the lives of Chicago’s most vulnerable, throughout many communities across Chicago. Every dollar given makes a difference, so we need your support.
Make your impact–donate to Chicago Cares today.
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“I contribute what’s appropriate for me. One person can make a difference, but collectively, [donating] is powerful.”
- Mary Johnston, Chicago Cares Volunteer, Leader and Donor