As the holiday season begins, it can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of the material parts of the season. Finding ways to volunteer to give back to our communities is a wonderful way to get to spend time with your little ones while also providing the invaluable experience of service and spreading hope.
The organizations below provide opportunities for all members of your family to make a difference in the lives of others. They are organized by their primary mission, but there may be some overlap into other categories, as well. Whatever your family is interested in, there are plenty of ways to get involved!
This article is sponsored by Corsalus Financial.
For the past several years, Corsalus Financial and Kidlist have partnered to create volunteer opportunities for kids to decorate, pack, and donate duffle bags to local foster kids. We love how Corsalus Financial not only is an amazing financial resource for your family, but also prioritizes giving back to the community.
Check out their Financially Aware Kids page for resources to help you educate your kids about money and contact them to talk about how they can help your family plan for the future.
Volunteer Opportunities Providing Food and Nutrition
Loaves and Fishes provides community members with groceries, as well as educational and employment resources through their CARES programs. There is a monthly 90-minute volunteer family program at the Aurora distribution hub where families are introduced to Loaves and Fishes, tour the facility, and work in the food packing areas. Children must be at least 6 years old to participate in this. There is also a volunteer program for teens who are ages 14-17. See the website for additional information.
Other ways to volunteer include participating in their ongoing virtual food drive, which lets you view their most-needed items, add them to your cart, and purchase them online. Katie’s family has participated in this before and found that it was a great opportunity to talk about why the items are needed and the impact of hunger in our community.
Feed My Starving Children offers a hands-on volunteering experience for any sized group at one of their local locations in Aurora, Schaumburg, or Libertyville. Families hand-pack dried vegetables, rice, soy, and a nutritionally complete blend of vitamins/minerals into bags. The meals are then sent to groups around the world. Feed My Starving Children has required adult-to-children ratios for larger groups, and all volunteers must be 5 years or older.
You must register to volunteer for a two-hour time slot. Check the website to reserve a time for your family to volunteer.
The Meals on Wheels Foundation of Northern Illinois, with locations throughout the suburbs, works with volunteers to deliver hot meals to senior citizens and disabled community members. Volunteers pick up and deliver around 8-10 meals in the mornings, Monday through Friday. Anyone can deliver meals; this could be a great activity to do as a family. Meals on Wheels is also looking for people to create greeting cards to deliver to seniors on holidays and their birthdays to brighten their days. This organization has made such a difference in the communities it serves!
Check out their volunteer page for more information on various ways to get involved.
The St. Cletus Food Pantry in La Grange serves residents throughout 18 municipalities in Lyons Township. Volunteers must be in 6th grade or older; younger children must have prior approval to volunteer. Help is needed on Thursday nights from 5:30 – 8:30pm; dress for the weather, as you will be both inside and outside. Find available timeslots on their signup.
Volunteer Opportunities to Help with Homelessness
DuPage Pads works to end homelessness in DuPage County by supporting clients with overnight shelters, life coaching, job counseling, and more.
Off-site volunteer opportunities include hosting your own food drive or purchasing these essential items to donate. The DuPagePads Client Service Center in Wheaton has a contact-free drop-off box in its parking lot. You can also check out the DuPage Pads Amazon wish list for their current needs.
Fill a Heart 4 Kids is a nonprofit based in Lake Forest that serves kids who are homeless, at-risk, or living in foster institutions. They aim to help these children achieve brighter futures through “educational support, necessities and positive experiences to help their hearts heal and restore their dignity.”
Your family can volunteer together to help fill care packages; find upcoming activities and sign up here. You’ll cover the cost of the package contents, then come to the storefront to help put everything together.
Volunteering with Animals in the Suburbs
ARF is a non-profit, 501(c)3 no-kill humane society based in Wheaton. This organization is focused on rescuing, fostering, and caring for dogs and cats while searching for forever homes for them. Volunteering opportunities include being a foster home for an animal, helping to transport animals, and participating in adoption events.
All volunteer opportunities require the participant to be 18 years or older, but may allow for adult supervision for kids younger than 18. Making adoption blankets would be a great scout project! Check the volunteer page for more information.
Hinsdale Humane Society supports animals and families with lost pets, pet therapy and fostering programs, community outreach and obedience classes. Animal shelters in general are always looking for donations of food, cleaning supplies, etc. Consider hosting a garage or bake sale and donating all your proceeds to the animals.
The Hinsdale Humane Society has different types of opportunities for kids as young as 4 to get involved, like reading to animals. In addition to fostering and adopting animals, you can also sponsor a homeless animal. Looking through the pet photos and profiles is a great family activity!
Character-Building Volunteer Opportunities for Kids
The Inside Out Club of Naperville is a nonprofit that focuses on helping kids develop character, all while making a difference in their communities. They have different types of volunteer opportunities, depending on age. The Inside Out Club offers between 10-15 events per year that are geared towards families with kids ages 3-12. Check their calendar for upcoming opportunities, such as their Craft Kits for Courageous Kids.
The LeaderShop, located in La Grange, inspires youth to become community-minded individuals through their array of training classes, retreats, and workshops. The organization is offering after-school programming at various schools throughout the near western suburbs. These programs are a great way for high school students to make a positive impact on local youth. There are also several fundraising events throughout the year, including the La Grange Rocks 5k race, which is a family-friendly event.
Holiday/Seasonal Volunteer Opportunities for Families
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization that strives to help those in need and proclaim the hope of the Gospel. Through their website, you can select from a wide variety of relief efforts to support with monetary donations. With Operation Christmas Child, families send shoeboxes full of small gifts to children around the world, many of whom may be receiving Christmas gifts for the first time. Select a theme, or pick out favorite small toys to include for their donations. The FAQ page has guidelines about items to pack.
Families are welcome to pack as many boxes as they would like with a suggested donation of $10 per box. This is intended to cover processing and shipping costs. In order to volunteer at a drop-off location, your child must be 13 years old. National collection week is November 13–20, 2023 at various drop-off locations in the suburbs. Check out the website for additional information about the organization and Operation Christmas Child.
Operation Warm focuses on keeping children warm during the cold winter months, instilling confidence, and providing hope. Instead of collecting used coats in a coat drive, monetary donations are used to provide new winter coats and shoes to children. Check out their website for inspiration on how to create your own fundraiser.
Helping Those with Illness
Phil’s Friends provides Christ-centered support and hope to those affected by cancer. It began in 2005, as Phil Zielke was battling Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; through the dark times, he was inspired and comforted by the generosity and outpouring of supportive acts, prayers, and messages from others.
Phil’s Friends has opportunities to volunteer in their Hope Centers (located in Wheaton, Addison, and Crown Pointe, Indiana) to assemble care packages, decorate boxes, and color cards that are sent out nationwide to people battling cancer.
Ronald McDonald House Charities has countless ways for people to volunteer. Whether setting up a weekly commitment or volunteering periodically, you’ll make a difference in the lives of families who are away from home as their children are treated for medical concerns. While many of their volunteering opportunities are for ages 18 and up, there are some that include all ages, as well. One activity for groups of all ages and sizes is to create care kits for families; the Family Activity Program is another volunteer opportunity for ages 10 and up. Hosting a fundraiser as a family is another great way to give back.
Ronald McDonald House Charities are located near the following hospitals: Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Edward Hospital in Naperville, Loyola Medical Center in Hines, Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, and UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
Outdoor Volunteer Opportunities for Kids and Families
If you’re looking for opportunities to get outside and get some fresh air while helping the environment, the Forest Preserves of Cook County have plenty. Their website has options to browse activities based on interest, location, schedule, and more. Their group volunteering opportunities include Ecological Stewardship Days and Litter Cleanup Days, which would be fun to do as a family.
The GardenWorks project assists families in DuPage County each spring by helping plant home gardens. This organization helps families by providing garden beds, seeds, and organic gardening education. They truly believe everyone is capable of growing their own produce that will be healthy for them and their family. There are many different ways to get involved with this organization, even if you don’t have much experience gardening.
Follow The GardenWorks Project on Facebook for fresh updates and listings of all-age volunteering opportunities.
More Volunteer Opportunities for Kids and Families
The 3:11 Project is a local non-profit based in Montgomery whose goal is to use social media to make social change. Their website outlines goods that can be regularly donated, whereas their Facebook page outlines more timely needs. Monetary donations, as well as goods and services, will be directly shared with local families. Their website also includes a Random Acts of Kindness toolbox, with ideas of activities that your family can complete.
Kidlist understands the importance of giving back to the community. For the past four years, we have coordinated family events; for the past two years, we paired up with Corsalus Financial to decorate, pack, and donate bags to foster children.
This family-friendly opportunity is doable for all ages, hands on, and impacts local kids. All of the decorated and packed duffel bags that volunteers put together are donated to All Our Children’s Advocacy Center in Justice, who will be passing them out to kids in tough situations around Chicagoland, such as kids who need support while being relocated for their own safety. We will most likely be hosting this event again in February or March. Stay tuned for the details!
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that helps build and improve homes for families. They offer several ways to get involved, starting from age 5! Check out their website on how you can volunteer with kids and assist someone to finally feel “at home.”
DuPage Habitat for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs share a joint calendar of volunteer events to help you find an opportunity that is right for your family.
St. John of the Cross in Western Springs includes a variety of volunteer opportunities on their website. While many options are geared towards adults, they also give options for volunteering with kids. These include both in-home and in-the-community ideas, such as making Good Deed Beads or get-well/greeting cards. If you’re local to Western Springs, this is a great way for you to get your whole family involved in service.
World Relief is a volunteer organization that welcomes refugees and immigrants, helping them acclimate to life here. They have several locations, including Chicago, Carol Stream, and Aurora. Volunteer opportunities vary, based on time commitments; there are group service opportunities, as well. As a family, you can also help by putting together their top-needed Welcome Kit.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago offers programs, services, and activities to bring people together and strengthen communities. The Y has volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups; some of their group volunteering events include collection drives, fresh food distribution days, landscaping, and outdoor/indoor clean-up. Their website has areas to connect with your local Y or to complete a volunteer form that highlights your interests.
Volunteer Opportunities for Kids at Home
Corsalus Financial put together some great ideas for families to volunteer around your neighborhood and at home!
Help Those In Need
People that need help might be right on your block! If you have anyone who is elderly or disabled in your neighborhood, offer your services as a family to help them complete the tasks they need done. You may be able to help them with their shopping, run some errands, or clean up their yard. With the whole family working together, you may be able to provide all the assistance they need to go about their day.
Clean Up the Neighborhood
If you and your family are unsure where to get started, walk around your neighborhood after garbage day. You can pick up any debris left when the cans are dumped. Sometimes papers fly on windy days and it’s a great service to your neighborhood.
Ask for Donations Instead of Birthday Gifts
Instead of receiving traditional birthday gifts from friends and family, consider raising money to support your favorite local charity or have people make a donation in your name. You also could have party attendees bring items to donate to a cause as well. If you want to donate to your local library, have each guest bring a book. If your local shelter needs support, have them bring personal care items.
Don’t forget! You can get your children involved in service through a variety of other ways. Children can make a difference in their local community through school clubs or PTO groups, religious groups, or scout organizations. With the holidays approaching, making cards for a hospital or retirement home is always appreciated. And lastly, random acts of kindness for your own family, friends, and loved ones are wonderfully positive ways to teach the beauty of good deeds and selflessness to children.