One of the things that I love about the Holidays is that everyone is in the spirit of giving. During this time of year we see many feel good stories. We all know about the secret Santas who happily surprise others by paying for their groceries. Plus, with Thanksgiving and Christmas many donate Thanksgiving Turkeys and Christmas ham to local homeless shelters and soup kitchens. During this time of year, many volunteer opportunities become available and families can help out at local homeless shelters or schools.

However, how else can we volunteer and give our time the other 363 days out of the year?

Why I Volunteer

I began volunteering at 9 years old. For a school project, I volunteered at my church’s soup kitchen on the weekends. Later, I went on to organize my first social service project entitled “Backpacks for Homeless”

While a student at Spelman, I was a mentor at a middle school in Atlanta. Once I graduated I began teaching english and writing to students studying for the GED.

Quarterly I volunteer with an organization called Feed my Starving Children. In addition, my family and I volunteer at a battered women’s shelter. And every Christmas we sing Christmas carols at a home for mentally disabled seniors.

I’m listing all the ways I volunteer not because I want to win the Mother Theresa award, but because I want to show that there are many ways you can give back.

While I don’t volunteer as much as I should, it’s something that I try to do as often as I can. I do it because it doesn’t feel right not to give back. As much as I’ve been blessed with, the least I can do is give my time.

I think volunteering can seem daunting because many don’t know where to even begin. Which is why I want to give you a head start with some resources that’ll equip you for volunteering in the new year.

Below, see some ways for how you can volunteer in Chicago.


Volunteering in Chicago

Hashtag Lunchbag – If you are looking to feed Chicago’s homeless community, then check out Hashtag Lunchbag. Hashtag Lunchbag is a multi-city social organization that’s goal is to make sure that no one goes hungry. Monthly the Chicago Hashtag Lunchbag team gathers to prepare lunches for Chicago’s homeless community. Once the lunches are complete volunteers then distribute the bags directly to those who are receiving it.  If you wish to get involved, sacrifice one Saturday a month. If you wish to sign up and learn more about Hashtag Lunchbag head to

Chicago Cares – If you are looking for a one stop shop for many volunteer opportunities in Chicago, then a great resource is Chicago Cares.  Chicago Cares connects volunteers to everything from working with senior citizens on Bingo night to reading to children. The site also has a great search engine that’ll allow you to find opportunities based on location. Even if you are in the suburbs, you can find something that’s closer to home. Head to for more information

One Good Deed Chicago – If becoming a mentor is more your speed, then head to With all that’s going on in Chicago, our youth desperately need mentors who can get them on the right track. Currently Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a two-year initiative that’s goal is to have 1000 Chicagoans register to become a mentor. If you wish to help fulfill that goal by giving back to Chicago’s youth, head to

Spark –For more mentorship opportunities, check out the Spark program. Spark is a multi-city mentorship program that connects career professionals to students in underserved areas.  Over the past few months my job participated in the program and students from Chicago area schools were able to receive mentorship and explore new career opportunities. Students would come to our office once a week to see a day in the life of their mentor.  This is a great way to introduce youth to new career opportunities that they haven’t considered. Register for Spark at

Feed my Starving Children – If you are looking for a group volunteer opportunity, then check out Feed my Starving Children. Nationwide, groups gather to pack meals for those in less fortunate countries. Volunteers are split into groups and they form an assembly line to complete the meals in a designated amount of time.  As I mentioned my family and I take part in Feed my Starving Children. We tend to get pretty competitive so we like to make a game out of it. Plus, who says that giving back can’t be fun?  To find a Feed my Starving Children near you head to

(Bonus Opportunity) Margaret’s Village – If you’d like to give your time to homeless women and children, then you’ll want to check out Margaret’s Village (formerly Institute of Women Today). Margaret’s Village provides transitional housing for homeless women and children. They empower the women by providing them with support and resources that’ll help them get back on their feet. Recently my co-workers and I helped set up a Holiday party at the Maria Shelter. It was a rewarding experience and an excellent way to spend my day.

Here’s a peek at our day at the Maria Shelter. Head to to find out how you can volunteer.

Get Out and Volunteer

Now that I’ve given you the resources, now all you need to do is sign up and volunteer. Since there are way more than 5 ways to volunteer in Chicago, head to the Chicago Volunteer Expo to learn about even more volunteer opportunities.

If you know of any other opportunities that I didn’t mention let me know and I can add it to the list 🙂


Photo Credits: GoodDeedChicago Facebook, Chicago Cares Facebook, and