Give thanks by giving back

volunteer

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the number of volunteers in the Chicago area is down by over 15% this year.   That’s the bad news.   The good news is that 2008 isn’t over yet!  Celebrate this season of giving by volunteering your time for a worthy organization in our community.

Visit the volunteer matchmaking site at the Community Resource Network to find an opportunity that connects with your individual interests or skill set.   Search by keyword, location or both to find the right fit.  Their database represents a wide range of organizations and immediately gives you all the basic information you need to shop around for a cause that inspires you. 

Food is a large part of our holiday traditions.  For those that don’t have enough, this is a particularly difficult season.  Two wonderful institutions supply Chicagoans in need with food year round.  On the north side, Lakeview Pantry distributes over one million pounds of food each year to individuals in that neighborhood.   On the south side, the Greater Chicago Food Depository distributes the equivalent of more than 95,000 meals every day.  Both of these organizations offer ways to assist them in their efforts and directly improve someone’s life.

Expand your social and business network by participating regularly with a club that offers a variety of volunteering programs and events.  One Brick is a volunteer organization that takes the planning out of your hands and lists upcoming events on a web calendar.  You can join them for as few or as many activities as you want and there is no charge to attend.   They usually tack on dinner or drinks after their events making it a good way to give while also enjoying some community time of your own.

puppies

Follow your heart’s desires by reaching out to a known cause that has always meant something to you.  Love animals?  Volunteer for the Anti-Cruelty Society.  Opera fan?  Volunteer with Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Fascinated by architecture?  Reach out to the Chicago Architecture Foundation.   This city is filled with worthy non profits offering a vast array of missions for you to nurture.  Find the one that excites you and try volunteering for one fundraising or outreach event.  Then, if you feel satisfied, you can join their continuing efforts. 

In spite of the economic outlook, plan something meaningful with your family and friends for the holidays.  This time of year is for reflection and celebration.  Do the very best you can to enjoy every minute of these next few weeks.  Chicago has plentiful opportunities to give back to our community and it won’t cost you anything.   Give back this year and feel grateful for what you have.

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