This is our city, our future. Impact starts with us, and it starts with action. As we gear up for Serve-a-thon, we’re excited to share stories from Chicago Cares volunteers, staff and supporters about what this concept – I’m Impact – means to them, in 3 short questions.

Today, we’re hearing from  Liz Allen, our corporate partner services manager, about how volunteering has shaped her life and career path in unexpected ways.

Want to share your #ImImpact story? Tweet or Instagram with #ImImpact this week to enter for a chance to win an awesome prize, like a free month of yoga at CorePower or cooking classes for 2 at Whole Foods Market. Click here for details.

Liz Allen


1. What does #ImImpact mean in your life?

I first started volunteering in 8th grade as part of the required service hours needed for Confirmation. Finding I enjoyed giving back, I continued to do so through high school, college and even during my study abroad experience. When people would ask what I wanted to be, I’d respond “a professional volunteer.” Why? Because there is truly nothing more rewarding than being the reason behind a smile or receiving a heartfelt thank you for helping someone take groceries to their car or serve them a meal. I always come away from volunteering feeling just a little bit better than before, a little more informed.

Initially, I planned to focus on international service opportunities, but I realized that Chicago needs people to focus their efforts in their own hometown too. Four years ago, I was lucky enough to find myself at Chicago Cares, where I actually became “a professional volunteer!” Now I’m lucky enough to work with others who care about making this city stronger.

2. What’s your favorite volunteering story?

Last year, I signed up for the Chicago Cares’ Fulton Garden project on the West Side. Getting off at the Pulaski Green line stop, I found myself lost, and proceeded to wander for 20 minutes. I had never been in the West Garfield Park neighborhood before, so I wasn’t feeling especially comfortable in my surroundings. Noticing I was lost, a kind stranger directed me toward the house down the street with the red truck out front, and what I found there was a microcosm community in itself.

During the next three hours, I saw parents teaching their young children about tending a garden; met a young international couple who had heard about this garden and decided to purchase their own plot; and watched a continual stream of neighbors stopping by to say hello. Everyone knows the owner Angela and her family who live just next door. They recognize that this garden helps bring fresh produce to their communities and they appreciate Angela and her family for making that possible. Seeing that, I’ve never felt more strongly that there are good people in every nook of this city who are working hard to make it stronger!

3. What’s the #1 thing you’d want to tell Chicagoans?

We all live in the comfort zone of our regular routine and neighborhoods – get outside of it once in a while and visit areas you’ve never been to or heard of before. Volunteering in communities outside of the one I grew up in has led me to meet some of the most knowledgeable and kind-hearted individuals I’ve ever known. There are wonderful people out there doing wonderful things in our city, and I want everyone to meet them!