Top Chicago Charities

by Dan Morgridge

There’s always plenty to do in the city, but sometimes you’ve got to balance what’s important. Are you hitting the gym and playing sports enough? Are you seeing your friends enough? Are you expanding your artistic and culinary horizons? These are all fine and dandy goals, but it’s also important to think a little bigger now and then. Take a break from yourself and go support those in need through one of these excellent Chicagoland charitable organizations.

Chicago Community Trust

If you want to really swing your giving weight around, go with one of the city’s most respected and powerful giving organizations. Having been in existence for over 95 years, CCT has become a powerful name in soliciting donations from benefactors as well as screening and selecting recipients for that money. Their knowledge and resources offer more than just financial benefit for the organizations they support – since they’ve been there before, they can help fledgling organizations manage their money. While there are many wealthy benefactors who contribute to CCT, they also depend on general donations from the public as well – every bit counts.

Growing Home

Growing Home addresses two big issues at once. First, it provides transitional employment for those whose criminal background or homelessness leaves them unable to apply for other jobs. The second (and really cool) part of the equation is that these jobs are in local organic farming. You might scoff at the idea of farmers’ markets being that big of a deal, but Growing Home’s Wood Street Urban Farm sold 11,000 pounds of produce last year, generating an income of $45,000 – which is a big deal for those workers who might otherwise be on the street. Chicago gets more organic produce, and creates new jobs – everyone wins.

Immerman Angels

There are many organizations to raise awareness for cancer, but Immerman performs a unique service for those in need. Those suffering from cancer, caring for a loved one with cancer, or even survivors have a lot on their mind – and Immerman offers them the chance to talk through it with someone who’s been there. Each Mentor Angel is the same age and gender as the person seeking support, and is trained to talk the person through their situation with the knowledge they have from their own experiences. This one-on-one treatment is very well received, and many of those who go through the program go on to become angels themselves.

826 Chi

Dave Eggers’ string of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers are a creative and thoughtful way of making learning fun for kids. 826 Chi, like all of the 826 centers, is disguised as something other than a learning center – here it’s The Boring Store, which is itself full of spy gadgets and toys. Beyond the fun of the store, the center hosts many volunteers who coordinate writing classes for youth aged 6-18. Writing workshops, one-on-one tutoring, and even ESL programs. And don’t think they’re any less creative when it comes to their fundraisers – you can help support the cause by attending proms or “Scrabble for Cheaters”, where extra donations allow you to buy extra letters or play one nonsense word.

Working Bikes

One of the more unique charitable organizations in Chicago, Working Bikes, focuses on reclaiming and repairing bikes from disrepair (or even the trash) and returning them to the streets. Of course, only some of the bike-recycling benefits thrifty shoppers here in Chicago – bikes not sold here are shipped over to third-world countries in need of the transportation. Without any government or foundation support, the shop funds their actions solely through bike sales and individual donors. In addition to the nearly 5,000 bicycles distributed throughout the world, some 500 bicycles and wheelchairs are refurbished for donation to those in our own city – for city programs and refugees. If you’re tight on cash and still want to make a donation somewhere, check and see if you’ve got an old bike gathering dust somewhere – it can make just as much of a difference as your pocketbook.

Dan Morgridge is a writer in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. He enjoys eating and drinking above his means, finding new music, and socially conscious hedonism.

  • Teresa

    you should include the ReBuilding Exchange which also has a post-prison job program and it salvages building materials from old buildings and churches, to prevent stuff from going into the landfill.

  • Anne

    Also: Rock for Kids – – Bringing music programming to at-risk youth in Chicago for over 20 years! Remember how amazing band or chorus, or even just an after-school program was? Help out kids who don’t have arts programming to make them feel amazing.

  • Will House

    Since the most popular cancer-related charities seem to always support research, hair donation and what-have-you, it’s always nice to see mention of Imerman Angels…

    Another similarly worthy cancer charity out there (tho it isn’t based in Chicagoland specifically) is the SAMFund! Because cancer treatment can be so financially devastating, the SAMFund provides grants and scholarships to young adult survivors of cancer (whose lives are often completely derailed by their varied conditions.) Whether it’s rent assistance, education support or any of their other individual payments, the SAMFUND’s direct action helps a wide range of truly deserving applicants whose youthful horizons have been drastically limited by their health battles.

    In fact, the SAMFund is the one charity that I stump for every chance I get. Feel free to check ’em out (and donate freely) at the URL below.

  • CBS Chicago names Growing Home a top charity | Growing Home

    […] Home is proud to have been named one of Chicago’s Top Charities, by CBS Chicago as part of their “Best of Chicago” […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live