As we’re often inundated with the material parts of the holiday season, we know families are always looking to give back to their communities during this time. Volunteering with kids is an invaluable experience of spending time together, with the common goal of spreading hope and giving back to others in our community. The organizations below provide opportunities for all members of your family to make a difference in the lives of others.
Local Volunteering Opportunities for Families and Kids
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization. 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 which who 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 of age. National collection week is November 14 – 21, 2022 at various drop-off locations in the suburbs. Check out the website for YouTube and Veggie Tales videos that explain Operation Christmas Child and how to pack your box.
Four Corners Community Church in Darien is hosting a Christmas Market on December 10, 2022. The Christmas Market allows under-resourced local families in our area to shop for brand new children’s gifts, all at drastically reduced prices.
If your family could be served by shopping at this event, visit www.fccc.church to sign up (registration spots are limited). To volunteer during the Market, or to sponsor this event by donating cash or new toys, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feed My Starving Children offers a hands-on volunteering experience for any sized group. 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.
FMSC is still running packing sessions! Check the website to reserve a time for your family to volunteer.
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.
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!
DuPage Pads works to end homelessness in DuPage County by supporting clients with overnight shelters, life coaching, job counseling, and more.
Virtual volunteer opportunities include hosting your own food drive or purchasing these essential items to donate. The DuPagePads Client Service Center 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.
St. Cletus Food Pantry in La Grange serves residents throughout 18 municipalities in Lyons Township. Children under 12 must have an adult with them. Help is needed on Thursday nights from 5:15-8:15pm. Dress for the weather, you will be outside! Find available timeslots on their signup.
The Inside Out Club is a nonprofit that focuses on helping kids develop character, all while making a difference in their communities. Check their calendar for upcoming opportunities, as they are excited to be offering in-person events again.
ARF is a non-profit, 501 (3) (c), no-kill humane society based in the western suburbs. This organization is dedicated to rescuing, fostering, and caring for dogs and cats while searching for forever homes for them. Volunteering include being a pet foster home, helping to transport animals, and participating in adoption events. All volunteer opportunities require the participant to be 18 years or older, but some allow for adult supervision if you are younger than 18. Check the volunteer page for more information.
Loaves and Fishes provides community members with groceries, as well as educational and employment resources through their CARES programs. They typically offer volunteering opportunities for children ages 6 and up, but these programs are still paused due to COVID-19. They still offer great opportunities for families to volunteer together to make a difference in their community.
Alternatively, they’re encouraging families to organize a food drive to help collect the most-needed items. Kids can get in on the action by contacting friends and relatives, asking them to donate, and picking up donations from the porch to bring to Loaves and Fishes. Their ongoing virtual food drive lets you view the most-needed items, add them to your cart, and purchase them online. My kids liked being able to see and pick out the food together with my husband and I. It was a great opportunity to talk about why these items are needed and the impact of hunger in our community.
Meals on Wheels works with volunteers to deliver hot meals to senior citizens and disabled community members. Volunteers pick up and deliver meals at lunchtime, Monday through Friday. Volunteers must attend a training session, and must be over the age of 18; however, minors may participate if accompanied by an adult. This organization has made such a difference in the communities it serves!
Check out their volunteer page for ways to get involved.
The LeaderShop 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.
Operation Warm focuses on keeping children warm during the cold winter months. Instead of collecting used coats in a coat drive, monetary donations are used to provide new winter coats to children. Money can be used to purchase coats sent to a local distribution event, or in neighboring cities.
Check out their website for inspiration on how to create your own fundraiser, start a drive, or get the family involved in a garage sale to keep children warm this winter season.
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, which also includes a list of creative ways kids can start their own fundraisers.
The 3:11 Project is a local non-profit 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.
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. Group volunteering include planning family activities, preparing meals or baking cookies. Individual activities include home improvement projects or cleaning common areas. Some of the volunteer opportunities have minimum age requirements for children. The Volunteer Manager will help you find the best fit for your family.
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. Click the link above to read more and fill out a volunteer application for the location nearest you.
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 Gardening Angels. 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 back to offering in-person volunteer opportunities, as well as a few virtual options. They are a volunteer organization that welcomes refugees and immigrants, helping them acclimate to life here. They have several local chapters including Chicago, and DuPage/Aurora.Volunteer opportunities include friendship partners, ESL aides, youth group volunteers, mentors, and tutoring. You can also help with a collection project to collect items such as school supplies, toiletries, and more; see their top needs during COVID-19 here.
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 from gardening pro, to grant writer, to getting to the site to build the garden.
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, such as stockings for kids. Find times and sign up here. You’ll cover the cost of the package contents, then come to the storefront to help put everything together.
We will most likely be hosting the Kidlist volunteer event to decorate and pack duffle bags for foster kids and victims of domestic abuse in February or March. Stay tuned for the details!
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 are wonderfully positive ways to teach the beauty of good deeds and selflessness to children.