Holiday Helpers—Local Nonprofits Making a Difference This Holiday Season

November 2015 View more

girl in winter clothes with small red heart

With the holiday season approaching, and a recent reduction in Federal funding for social services, local nonprofits are even more in need of help to give hope to families impacted by financial crisis, job loss, homelessness and domestic violence. 

Here are a few places where you can make a difference this holiday season.


Naperville CARES

Formed in 1999, Naperville CARES helps local families in financial crisis meet their essential needs by providing emergency financial support and resources. Since its inception, CARES has distributed over $2.4 million in financial assistance to help local families through funding and collaboration with area congregations, government and social service agencies—all of this with one full-time and two part-time employees and almost 60 volunteers.

How You Can Help—Be Generous

The holiday season marks CARES’ Annual Appeal, where the majority of its fundraising takes place. Whether it is through planned giving, a trust, a donation on behalf of a loved one, or in lieu of a gift, the most significant impact you can make is through a monetary donation. These funds are used to connect clients with programs, provide emergency assistance to prevent homelessness and support their efforts to be self-sufficient. Unique to CARES is its car donation program, which is focused less on selling donated cars and, instead, pays to repair cars that can be used to get clients to work. If you are in the market for a new car, consider a donation.



DuPagePads is the county’s largest provider of temporary and permanent housing, also delivering support services to help individuals and families become self-sufficient. In 2014, the organization served 1,360 individuals, 241 children, 14 families and 86 veterans, offering the essential case management, employment support and housing to stop the cycle of homelessness. Founded in 1985, DuPagePads has the highest rating from Charity Navigator for fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.

How You Can Help—End the Cycle

Helping to end the cycle of homelessness is a huge undertaking. However, you can help in a number of ways. Financial support is critical and will help to fund the programs and services offered through the organization. Volunteering at a temporary housing location is also a great way to contribute, whether you are welcoming clients and handing out bedding, or serving meals with a smile. Gift cards, clothing and basic living essentials are always welcome as well.


Loaves & Fishes

Dedicated to the mission of ending hunger, Loaves & Fishes Community Services delivers food to those in need and works to empower its clients to become self-sufficient. The organization serves nearly 5,000 families each year, providing the lifelines people need to feed their families, get back on their feet and develop the habits and skills to thrive on their own. Loaves & Fishes was named a Top Agency Partner in the area of Safety Net by the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. Its first fundraiser, “Night to End Hunger,” held in 2014, raised $267,650 for programs and services.

How You Can Help—Give Hope

Loaves & Fishes’ H.O.P.E. Holiday Drive (Help Other People Eat) is a great way for the community to help. This program allows families to celebrate the holidays without forcing them to dip into funds needed to pay bills and buy groceries. The organization is hoping to raise $300,000 through the Drive this season. Even more exciting, two Loaves & Fishes donors have committed to matching all Giving Tuesday (December 1, 2015) donations up to $65,000. Last year, the organization raised nearly $180,000 through its Giving Tuesday campaign.


People’s Resource Center in Wheaton

Since 1975, People’s Resource Center has been committed to addressing basic human needs, promoting dignity and justice and creating a hopeful future for the nearly 32,000 clients who rely on the organization annually. Each year, PRC’s team of 2,000 volunteers makes a significant impact on DuPage County’s community and 2014 was no exception:

More than 7,000 families received over 35,000 grocery carts of nutritious food

Nearly 90 families received the financial assistance necessary to regain housing stability

Almost 500 adults received learning and literacy services

How You Can Help—Lend a Hand

The biggest need this holiday season is time. People’s Resource Center functions with the support of a workforce that is 96 percent volunteer. Additionally, the organization runs a holiday seasonal food drive where holiday meals are given to individuals and families in need. Food donations of fresh fruits and produce are always welcome. However, People’s Resource Centers can purchase from local food banks at a significantly reduced rate. For that reason, monetary donations, whether they are one-time or through a planned giving program are the most impactful. Another donation option is by providing technology equipment such as computers, hardware and monitors.


Mutual Ground

Located in Aurora, Mutual Ground is a domestic violence and sexual abuse shelter serving the needs of families in the Greater Aurora area, Southern Kane County and all of Kendall County. Each month, the organization’s Crisis Intervention Advocates answer nearly 2,000 calls on its 24-hour hotline, and the shelter provides free, comprehensive victim services with the support from grants, churches, civic groups, corporate donors and individual giving.

How You Can Help—Create New Traditions

During the holiday season, one of the biggest needs is emotional support. If a relationship has ended, the grieving process can be re-triggered and there may be the need to start new traditions. It could also be the first time families are separated and children cannot be with one of their parents. Adult clients often feel guilty if they cannot afford holiday gifts for their children. Mutual Ground holds a Santa’s workshop at holiday time to supply families with special gifts, such as a nice purse or new clothing and jewelry. Warm clothing, boots, hat scarves, and gloves are also very important, as are cleaning supplies, gas cards, bus and train tickets, gift certificates for oil changes and car maintenance.