Every parent since the beginning of time has wanted pretty much the same thing—to raise decent, self-reliant human beings. And part of that process involves teaching our kids to be citizens of the world and to give back to others. Volunteering is an excellent hands-on way for kids to learn this. But it’s hard. How does one find the time? Are there age-appropriate experiences that kids will understand? That aren’t traumatizing? Or dangerous for little fingers and toes? Maybe even with other families?
As it turns out, there are—and we’ve rounded up a whole list of them in the Chicagoland area. There are opportunities to volunteer as a family, and options for a variety of different ages and stages from babies through teens, and even one just for grown-ups.
For the Whole Family
Create a painting to be displayed at Respond Now, an organization that works to alleviate hunger and prevent homelessness in populations at risk in south suburban communities. All ages, register online.
1429 Emerald Ave, Chicago Heights
Sunday, June 26, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Good Deeds Day – Volunteer Open House
Good Deeds Day was created in Israel in 2007 as an international day of “doing good,” and JUF is bringing it home to Chicago with the first-ever community-wide Good Deeds Day. Bring the entire family to the volunteer open house at the Weinger JCC, and pick from a variety of hands-on volunteer activities for all ages, including assembling pediatric hospital care packages, packing bag lunches, making sleeping mats for the homeless, and more. After volunteering, kids ages 8 and under can jam at a song session with Beth Reinstein from 4 – 4:30 p.m. and everyone can have a splash at open swim from 2 – 4 p.m. with JCC lifeguards on duty. RSVP requested, but walk-ins are welcome. The event is free, participants are encouraged to bring paper towels and/or dish soap to donate to EZRA Multi-Service Center.
Bernard Weinger JCC, 300 Revere Drive
Sunday, April 10, 1 – 5 p.m. (Doors open at 12:30 p.m.)
Passover Food Package Delivery
Deliver food packages for Passover to Jews in need throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs with Maot Chitim. Volunteers must have a vehicle for delivery.
1808 Holste Rd, Northbrook
Sunday, April 17, 9 – 11 a.m.
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Join an Adopt-a-Beach team to clean up and improve local beaches. All ages, check the website for other dates and locations, advance registration requested.
12th Street Beach, Cook County
Wednesday, April 13, 11:30 a.m.
For Families with Kids Ages 0 – 4
jBaby Chicago Music & Memories
Enjoy a kid-friendly concert with jBaby Chicago and the residents at The Abington senior center.
The Abington, 3901 Glenview Rd, Glenview
Tuesday, April 7, 10 -10:45 a.m.
For Families with Kids Ages 4 – 12
Bernie’s Book Bank
Help sort, process, and bag donated children’s books to be given to infants, toddlers, and school-age kids in at-risk populations. Ages 4 and up—must complete waiver and be accompanied by an adult.
Bernie’s Book Bank, 917 North Shore Drive, Lake Bluff
Drop-in Volunteer Hours:
Mondays, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Wednesdays, 9:30 – 11:30 p.m. & 4 – 6 p.m.
Fridays, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
The ARK provides food, shelter, clothing, medical services, and other types of assistance to help members of the Chicagoland Jewish community who are in distress. Volunteers of all ages are needed to organize the food pantry and kids age 10 and up can help serve dinner if accompanied by an adult.
6450 North California Ave, Chicago
Check the website for specific dates and times
Chicago Chesed Fund
The Chicago Chesed Fund helps community members in need with financial assistance and a warehouse full of free groceries, household staples, and used clothing and furniture. For ages 5 and up with adult supervision. Check the website for currently scheduled volunteer opportunities in different locations.
Pushing the Envelope Farm
A Jewish farm and community education center that provides land ranging from small plots to multiple acres to organic farmers. Help the farm grow 1,000 lbs. of organic produce to feed the hungry. Click here for more information.
1700 Averill Rd, Geneva
For Bar/Bat Mitzvah-Age and Up
JUF Uptown Café
Chicago’s first kosher, anti-hunger program provides hot kosher meals in a restaurant-style setting to Jews and non-Jews alike. Volunteers are needed to set and clear tables, serve, and visit with guests. Advance registration required.
909 W. Wilson, Chicago
Monday, Tuesday & Thursday evenings & Sunday mornings
Check website for specific dates and times
High School-Age and Up
Help prepare and serve a hot, sit-down meal for approximately 100 guests at the Franciscan Outreach Association’s Marquard Center soup kitchen. Ages 14 and up, limited space available, advance registration required.
1645 W. LeMoyne St, Chicago
Still haven’t found the right fit for your family or your schedule? Get in touch with TOV, the Jewish United Fund’s Tikkun Olan Volunteer Network, and they will do their very best to hook you up with the right opportunity. Give them a call at (312) 357-4762 or shoot them an email.