How To Give Back In Chicago: Where To Volunteer

Chicago volunteers
Chicago volunteers | © Feed My Starving Children/Flickr
Elizabeth Newhart

It’s not uncommon for people to experience the desire to give back around the holidays. But the world needs volunteers year-round, and Chicago is brimming with do-good opportunities every single day. Check out some of these local causes and resources if you’re looking to get more involved in bettering the Windy City community.

Chicago Cares

Chicago Cares is your one-stop shop for streamlined volunteering. If you’re not sure where you want to get involved, or you don’t want to commit to a single cause and would rather help out in a variety of ways, Chicago Cares is where you need to be. Their website prompts you to complete a quick, free registration. Then you simply browse their calendar of city events looking for volunteers and sign up for what works for you. The site then puts you in contact with volunteer supervisors who direct you further. Their calendar includes everything from soup kitchens and senior breakfasts to neighborhood beautifications and kids’ community events.

1. PAWS Chicago

PAWS Chicago

If your volunteer dream job involves being near animals all day, PAWS Chicago wants your help. They have adoption locations in Lincoln Park and suburban Highland Park, a medical center in Little Village, and more volunteer opportunities off-site at their community events. Their volunteer roles page details exactly how you can help, including working with dogs, cats, people, crises and even educating about their No-Kill Chicago initiative. Help find Chicago’s furriest friends their forever homes.

PAWS Chicago, 1997 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 935 7297

One Good Deed Chicago

Like Chicago Cares, One Good Deed Chicago is a community resource for volunteers looking to be connected with do-good opportunities. It was founded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to make Chicago a better place for everyone. Their registration determines your skills and interests to match you with your perfect volunteer jobs. It also logs your hours if you need to track them for school or work requirements. It’s still a relatively new service and, therefore, doesn’t list as many opportunities as other sites. It also places a heavy emphasis on the Mayor’s Mentoring Challenge, which is a two-year initiative to pair at-risk Chicago youth with a qualified mentor.

3. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

According to their website, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless claims to ‘organize and advocate to prevent and end homelessness, because we believe housing is a human right in a just society.’ Their studies have found that as many as 125,848 people living in Chicago are homeless, including 18,831 students. CCH is an independent non-profit that does not accept government funding, but always accepts donations and volunteers. You can volunteer as an unpaid intern to help with their public policy and community organizing. For less of a daily commitment, you can also donate your time to any one of their local programs and campaigns by contacting the respective organizers.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, 70 E Lake St #720, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 641 4140

4. Chicago Freedom School


If you’re inspired to educate and better the lives of our future generations, look into the Chicago Freedom School. They offer training and education opportunities for Chicagoans aged 14-21 in order to develop leadership skills and social awareness. They aim to ‘create new generations of critical thinking young people who use their unique experiences and power to create a just world.’ Lend your time by working as a librarian, administrative assistant, or special events coordinator. You can even join their design and IT teams if you have the necessary skills.
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