Nov 19, 2022 - Things to Do

Volunteer guide: 5 ways to give back in Chicago

Illustration of a welcome mat that reads "help"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The season of giving is almost upon us, so we found a few volunteer opportunities with local organizations that need your help.

  • But, but, but: Don't stop here. There are dozens of other worthy causes in and around Chicago.

1. Help out at a local animal shelter

Play with, socialize and train adoptable pets at Paws Chicago.

Why it matters: Volunteering helps animals at the shelter find a caring home.

What to expect: Opportunities include providing hands-on care for dogs and cats and helping folks navigate the adoption process.

Details: Complete an online application to get started. Those under 18 years of age can volunteer with a parent or guardian.

Other needs: Consider fostering a pet, or support the organization's community events and outreach.

2. Give back to veterans

Help plan and execute an Honor Flight Chicago experience.

Why it matters: The organization treats veterans to a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials.

What to expect: Volunteers assist with pre-flight operations at Midway Airport, fundraising, outreach and more.

Details: Hundreds of volunteers are needed. Apply online to get involved.

3. Feed the hungry

Lend a hand at Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Why it matters: In fiscal year 2022, the food bank served a phenomenal 77.3 million meals.

What to expect: Roles range from repacking bulk products into family-sized portions to distributing fresh produce in the community.

Details: Check this calendar for dates and availability. Those over age 16 can volunteer independently, and younger volunteers (ages 11-15) are welcome with adult supervision.

Other needs: Start a virtual food drive, or donate shelf-stable items in person.

4. Deliver books to kids

Donate great reads or spend time volunteering at Bernie's Book Bank.

Why it matters: The organization provides free, high-quality books to underserved Chicagoland children.

What to expect: Help sort, sticker and pack books at its Lake Bluff processing center.

Details: Anyone can volunteer. Sign up online for a morning, afternoon or evening session.

Other needs: Organize a book drive or donate new and gently used children's books at a location near you.

5. Support those experiencing homelessness

Get involved at Lincoln Park Community Services.

Why it matters: The shelters serve folks across Chicago who are at risk of or are currently experiencing homelessness.

What to expect: Cook a meal, teach a class or work a front desk shift at centers in Lincoln Park and Old Town.

Details: Browse and sign up online for volunteer opportunities, including virtual, off-site and onsite options.

Other needs: Donate clothing, hygiene products and other items from the organization's wish list.

Know a worthy cause? Email us at [email protected], and we may feature your nonprofit in an upcoming newsletter.


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