January marks a significant time for Chicagoans to reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and lots of them did so by volunteering. At Chicago Cares, we created dozens of projects where hundreds of volunteers gave back all month long in our Celebration of Service.

On January 16 alone, more than 400 volunteers served at 20 sites across the city, doing everything from painting classrooms to serving meals to people in shelters.

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At Boone Elementary, more than 70 volunteers from our corporate partner Target served alongside alongside 80 students and parents. We love seeing how involved and excited a neighborhood can get when they rally behind a service project. This was Target’s 6th year volunteering with us at Boone.

“The kids have started to see the value and benefit of volunteering,” said Principal Jaclyn Delaney. “It was powerful to see adults who don’t even know them helping out… They’ve been part of making this environment a beautiful space, so they take that much more pride in being in a comfortable and safe environment, which is the #1 thing they need to learn.”

The students there were even inspired to start their own volunteering club – Boone Cares- after seeing the volunteers there year after year. Now they meet weekly and plan their own service projects.

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Meanwhile at Friedman Place, a community for adults with vision impairment, staff and residents presented a workshop about living with blindness to our volunteers. Then the volunteers served pizza, talked and made new friends.

“We are so appreciative,” said Beth Elman, director of activities & volunteers at Friedman Place. “It engages our residents with the community; some of them get outside often and some don’t. To have people come in, and hear their stories, and for the volunteers to share about their lives, it really is magical.”

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This project was a great example of one of Chicago Cares’ guiding principles – that when you give back, you get just as much (or more) out of it!

“This is my most memorable experience so far,” said Leslie, a volunteer leader and Target store manager who has volunteered with Chicago Cares for 9 years. “It’s been all schools before this. Now I’m learning about a community I ever knew existed, and for the residents, this is something they’re going to remember.”

We’re keeping Dr. King’s spirit of community service thriving all year long in Chicago; join us by visiting our website and signing up to serve at one of our 200+ monthly volunteer projects.

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