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 )
It’s every potential employee’s worst nightmare: sitting down at an interview and hearing, “So I see you have a gap on your résumé. Can you explain that to me?” This was me, almost two years ago, when I first interviewed at Chicago Cares. I graduated from college when the economy wasn’t the greatest. My friends had jobs but I was struggling to get my foot in somewhere, anywhere. I spent most of the day at home with my roommate’s cat, applying to job after job “to whom it may concern.”
One day, I realized enough was enough. I needed to get out of the house and do something. I had seen a few flyers in the neighborhood advertising a food drive for a local pantry: Lakeview Pantry. I Google-d around to find out where it was and found that it was relatively close. The next day I walked in and was surprised at how small the place was. A nice elderly lady helped me inside and asked me if I needed food. I said I was just there to help out and she got me started right away. I was unloading boxes, sorting produce, packing bags… and I was there a whole day before I realized that this wasn’t Lakeview Pantry at all, but Common Pantry, a small site located in the back of a United Church of Christ. They distribute their food on Wednesdays and sort produce and donations on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
All of a sudden my week had structure. I had something to get out of bed for, and my pile of jobs to apply to began to look far less daunting. I was talking to people, and I was humbled by the stories of those receiving food. At first I thought I would be sneaky and try to work at Common Pantry, but I realized with only one full-time staff person (the executive director) that would never happen. I didn’t even really meet a lot of people to network with. But what did happen was that I was able to take a step back from my computer screen and endless e-mailing of résumés and cover letters… and have some perspective. I was able to realize that maybe I wanted to look harder for not just “any” job, but a job in a field that I cared about, like improving the quality of life for others. And I was definitely able to say something more than “catching up on my telenovelas” when the inevitable “what have you been doing during the gap on your résumé?” question came up.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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 )
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 )
Chicago Cares is in the midst of our annual I Care campaign. It’s a time when we reflect on the amazing work you have helped us to accomplish and when we set our goals for our programs to continue to meet the needs of the community. As I analyze our impact data I am always amazed by what can be invested in our community in a year. It puts all of my experiences cooking breakfast for seniors, pulling weeds at a garden, leading a children’s activity, or the other projects I’ve attended this year into perspective. I have done so little compared to what we have done together. Your time, talents, passion, and compassion go a long way. With that said, the opportunities you have to serve your community through Chicago Cares wouldn’t be there without much-needed funding.
Today, I’m asking you to donate to Chicago Cares to support the programs you volunteer at or believe in. Here’s why:
So far in 2012…
• Volunteers have given positive one-on-one attention to children 9,260 times.
• Volunteer hours given at the Greater Chicago Food Depository have allowed partner organizations to purchase 43,000 pounds of additional food.
• 19,562 meals have been served to Chicagoans in need.
• There have been 14,350 visits made to seniors living in isolation.
• 989 adults received individualized attention in classroom settings with job skills, ESL coaching, tutoring, and more.
• 177,216 square feet have been landscaped at 7 neighborhood gardens, 4 nature area sanctuaries, 2 conservatories, and 2 parks.
• 635 murals have been painted and 86 mosaics created.
• 1,058 benches, bookcases, cubbies, planter boxes and more have been constructed.
• 475 classrooms and 86 hallways have been painted.
• 27,247 volunteer opportunities have been filled.
• And 87,662 volunteer hours have been served, which equals $1,872,460 worth of services donated to and invested in Chicago area schools and organizations.
What our school and organization partners have to say about it:
• 88% of partner organizations have increased the number of services they provide.
• 86% have increased the number of clients they’re able to serve.
• 94% have improved the quality of services they offer.
• 86% report that their projects wouldn’t get finished without Chicago Cares volunteers.
Wow. You have a lot to be proud of – and the year’s not even over yet!
I hope you’ll join me in taking this opportunity to be a part of making sure we can do this – and more – together again in 2013. None of this would be possible without both your time and the supplies and expertise provided by Chicago Cares. Your donation to the Chicago Cares I Care campaign will keep Chicago Cares programs going strong and allow you to stay invested in your community. Donate to your favorite area of service or to our general fund. Every dollar makes a difference.
I look forward to seeing you at a project soon.
Director of Ongoing Programs, Chicago Cares
Proudly invested in our community for nine years
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, most people are making last minute grocery runs and anxiously awaiting the company of family and friends. However, throughout Woodlawn, neighborhood members had the opportunity to celebrate early as a community and Chicago Cares volunteers were there to help!
Last week volunteers assisted Living Room Café in prepping and cooking food for their Thanksgiving Community Meal. This annual event is an all day affair held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, feeding over 350 community members throughout Woodlawn. Each year, Chicago Cares helps provide turkeys and hams as well as assisting with cooking mashed potatoes and mac & cheese, baking tasty treats, setting tables, and serving meals.
Volunteers helped make Thanksgiving at Living Room Café a grand occasion, filled with laughs, hugs, and plenty of amazing food. That’s the magic of Thanksgiving; it gives us an opportunity to, for just a day, press the pause button on our work life and just hang out and enjoy the company of our loved ones. But what if I told you we could experience that magic all year round? Our hunger program volunteers have been doing just that!
Hunger programs at Living Room Café and the rest of the community agencies we work with are about more than feeding people. They’re about doing so in an atmosphere of dignity, respect and community. Our projects at Living Room Cafe create a fun restaurant style space which, in addition to serving individuals affected by homelessness or poverty, fosters a larger sense of community and fellowship. Volunteers often find themselves coming back to Living Room Cafe outside of the projects with Chicago Cares to serve at neighborhood wide breakfast events and holiday specials, alongside some of the same individuals they were serving earlier in the month. Service strengthens community, and we all can serve; so we can all make Chicago a stronger community.
The spirit of Living Room Café and Chicago Cares volunteers is felt all year long throughout the Woodlawn community. Every first and third Saturday Chicago Cares volunteers cook and serve breakfast for 30-40 community members, in addition to cooking and serving dinner every second Wednesday. Throughout 2012, Chicago Cares volunteers have dedicated nearly 2,500 hours towards meeting hunger needs in the Woodlawn community while serving nearly 1,500 meals.
A donation of $100 through our I Care campaign not only provides Living Room Cafe food to serve nearly 35 clients, it creates an opportunity to keep that holiday magic alive well past this winter. Please consider making a donation to Chicago Cares and helping our hunger programs grow.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Yesterday over lunch a few of us wrestled with, in a Harry Potter-like world, which of five magical powers we would like to have. Given the choices of super strength, invisibility, telepathy, shape shifting, or the ability to communicate with animals, I naturally chose super strength or telepathy (think Luke Cage or Charles Xavier).
Later yesterday evening as I sat in a Starbucks thinking through Frederick Douglass’ piece No Struggle No Progress for WBEZ’s community discussion series next week, I found myself reflecting back on my lunch hour conversation concerning which power I’d like to have. While I’m sure Frederick Douglass’ intent wasn’t to invoke my youthful yearnings to be Luke Cage, it was interesting to think through how I conceptualize power and community action.
I guess that brings me to my larger point: Each of us already possesses an incredible power, the power to change the world in countless immeasurable ways. Every day presents an opportunity to make a positive change in the world. In honor of those opportunities, every year communities and organizations all over the country celebrate Make a Difference Day. This special day celebrates the power and awesomeness of connecting people with opportunities to serve in order to increase the strength of communities and promote civic engagement.
In Chicago, you can celebrate Make a Difference Day on October 27 by volunteering your time at one of Chicago Cares’ projects throughout the city. And while Make a Difference Day only lasts a single day, our power to make a difference is always there. We can make a difference every day, whether it’s smiling at a youth on their way to school or volunteering at a Chicago Cares project. So I challenge you to continue making a difference far beyond this weekend. I challenge you to spend at least the next few weeks making a difference whenever you can.
Here are a few areas where you can Make a Difference!
Education: Join children build reading confidence, create fun art projects, and build excitement about learning at Read-with-Me at Brunson.
New readers are so excited to learn! Join these little readers at Story Time at CYP where you’ll help them learn about letters, sounds, songs and more! Art and Games at San Jose Obrero Mission is excited about November and ready to celebrate thanks! Work with young children as they create exciting art projects to share their thanks and decorate their homes.
Hunger and Homelessness: Lunch at Breakthrough Ministries, a housing facility that provides social services to men and women who are working to get back on their feet. You can also re-purpose old plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for those in need with New Life for Old Bags.
Health and Wellness: Share your love of fall vegetables at Young Chefs at Young School, where you’ll teach kids about healthy fall vegetables and tasty treats.
Environment: Winter is coming, which means that many of our environmental projects need your help to get ready for the change of seasons! Volunteers at Nature Area Restoration – Rainbow Beach Dunes will be finishing up the season by planting native species throughout the dunes.
Senior Services: Totally Trivia at The Imperial- Enjoy this lively game of trivia with a group of nursing home residents! Volunteers will work with residents and they play for prizes and bragging rights! Give seniors their voice at this project at What’s the Word. Work with a group of nursing home residents as they assemble their quarterly newsletter!
We hope to see you this Saturday as we all work together to Make a Difference in Chicago!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 )