NONPROFITS OFFER OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
Is the holiday season inspiring you to do something to help others? Fortunately there are a number of great volunteer and donation opportunities right here in the western suburbs where you can make a difference.
People’s Resource Center
People’s Resource Center welcomes volunteers to help with both its food pantry and its Share the Spirit Program. Share the Spirit enables families who are most vulnerable to shop for their child(ren)’s holiday gifts. The gifts include age-appropriate toys, gloves, mittens, and books. Gift cards are also provided to parents of older children. The “shop” is setup at the County Fairgrounds by volunteers on December 2 and 4 and then opened to participants December 5-7. “It’s truly a joyous experience that brings a high level of dignity to neighbors in our community who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Sarah O’Donnell, director of development. “Some of our volunteers are so passionate about this event that even though they have moved away, they make the journey back each year to help.” To volunteer or to provide food and new toy donations, visit peoplesrc.org.
On Christmas Eve, Hesed House opens a Christmas store onsite for its shelter guests. A holiday wish list is available online for those looking to contribute to the store. “Gift cards are also a major need during the holidays because they enable us to quickly respond to our guests’ needs,” said Bruce Bachmeier, director of volunteers. “Although we are blessed to have enough volunteers for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have plenty of other opportunities throughout the year. Some of our biggest volunteer needs are for breakfast shifts, weekend lunches and our transportation ministry. People can also supply Hesed Home Starter Kits or participate in our Adopt-A-Family Program.” For more info visit hesedhouse.org.
You know it’s the holiday season when Salvation Army volunteers are out ringing bells and collecting donations in their famous red kettles. But did you know that anyone could be a bell ringer? “It’s a great opportunity for individuals, families and groups to help raise money for those less fortunate,” said Cindy Lawrence, volunteer coordinator. With bell ringing locations all over Naperville and the surrounding area, people can easily find a location close to home. To learn more, or to volunteer, visit registertoring.com.
The Aurora Salvation Army also sponsors an Angel Tree Program that helps over 700 low-income families provide gifts to their children. People are invited to select a flyer from the tree and purchase the requested gift items. Volunteers are needed to help sort gifts during the first two weeks in December and to help distribute gifts to the families on December 19 and 20. Volunteers are also needed to deliver gifts to area nursing home residents. If you are interested in volunteering, complete an online application at salarmyaurora.org. You can also help feed the families they serve by donating online.
Throughout the year, Sharing Connections provides furniture and household items to families coping with a crisis. “We are always looking for toys to give the children we serve,” Chief Operating Officer Ryan Varju said. “Last year, in partnership with DuPage Toys for Tots, we distributed toys to 1,144 children under the age of 13.” The nonprofit also needs gift cards, hats and gloves. “We work hard to provide stockings to every child, so we also have a great need for stocking stuffers. Last year we couldn’t provide stockings to half the children because we ran out of items,” said Varju. Ideas for toy donations can be found online at sharingconnections.org/new-toy-donations.
If you’re looking to volunteer, Sharing Connections also needs help turning its warehouse into a toyland. “Preparation begins one week prior to the official launch and requires a lot of hands. It’s a great opportunity for small groups and individuals,” Varju said. Toy counting and organization is tentatively scheduled for the first Thursday and Friday in December. Toyland set-up takes place on December 9 and distribution runs December 12–15. Volunteer opportunities and registration will be posted online by mid-November.
Operation Support Our Troops
Every year Operation Support Our Troops brightens our servicemen and servicewomen’s holidays by sending them stockings filled with gifts and treats. “People are deployed year round. They don’t get holidays off and are far away from their families,” said Sue Liston, administrative director. “It can be an especially difficult time for them.” Stockings are mailed in late October to ensure they arrive in time for the holidays. While that deadline has passed, there are other ways to help during the holidays. “We are always running short on cards and letters which we accept year round,” said Liston. “We also need donations for our Comfort and Care Package Program.” Requested items are listed online at osotamerica.org.
Naperville and Lisle Townships
Like many local government entities, both Naperville and Lisle Townships sponsor programs to help low income residents. Naperville Township’s Adopt-A-Family Program assists over 100 families annually. Families are adopted by local organizations and individuals who provide gifts, gift certificates and other seasonal necessities. “It’s incredible how many people in the community step forward to help,” said Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra. “Giving back is a wonderful way to express the spirit of the holidays.” More information is available at NapervilleTownship.com.
Lisle Township’s holiday program also matches sponsors with families in need. Its program includes family sponsorship, food drives and special holiday food and toy distributions. Visit lisletownship.com for more information.
Family Shelter Service
At Family Shelter Service, volunteers have the opportunity to share the joy of the holiday season with victims of domestic violence and their children. You can make a difference by donating gift cards and new unwrapped children’s gifts to support its Holiday Shoppe where clients select gifts for free in a welcoming and safe environment. You can also make a donation online, at weblink.donorperfect.com/HolidayShoppe2016.