The planet has more than its fair share of self-centered adults, so do the Earth a solid and consider volunteering at a local non-profit as a family. Volunteer work allows young people to see the need that surrounds them, and gives them something more fulfilling to do than Instagramming selfies. Look into any of these formal volunteering opportunities around Chicago.

(Photo: Chicago Cares' Facebook)

(Photo: Chicago Cares’ Facebook)

Chicago Cares
2 N. Riverside Plaza Suite 1800
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 780-0800
Chicagocares.org

In the last quarter-century, Chicago Cares has attracted more than a half-million generous locals to volunteer in some 200 monthly programs and annual events. Signing up on the website is easy and the range of opportunities is great for families with different interests. If your crew likes to cook, there are spots in kitchens and meals to serve to senior citizens. Families can work in urban gardens and help kids learn about a variety of subjects. Chicago Cares offers ongoing volunteer opportunities for kids ages 8 and older, however, youth volunteers 15-years-old and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Consider Serve-a-thon, the city’s largest volunteer day that takes place on June 25. It’s open to those age 12 and older (at least one adult per child age 12-16 is required).

West Suburban Humane Society
1901 Ogden Ave
Downers Grove IL 60515
(630) 960-9600
www.wshs-dg.org

How many adults dreamed about being a veterinarian as a child only to give it up after the first frog dissection in biology class? Kids and their love for animals can spark fulfilling volunteer opportunities for families at the West Suburban Humane Society, a premier animal shelter that works to find permanent and compatible homes for cats and dogs. Kids ages 12-15 must volunteer with a parent or guardian when working with the dogs; animals lovers who are between 10-15 years old can work with cats, but also must volunteer with a parent or guardian. An increasing passion for animal welfare issues is almost guaranteed.

(Photo Credit: thehoneycombproject.org)

(Photo Credit: thehoneycombproject.org)

Honeycomb
1658 North Milwaukee Avenue, #190
Chicago, Illinois 60647
(773) 750-7120
thehoneycombproject.org

You know you’ve found a great place to flex the family compassion muscles when you see that Honeycomb’s motto is “Volunteering Runs in the Family.” The Chicago organization has attracted kids and their families to public service through strengthening the city’s communities since 2011. Share your time undertaking beach clean-up projects, distributing food from local food pantries, sewing quilts for pediatric patients, working in a nature preserve, helping homeless families and more.

Greater Chicago Food Depository
4100 W. Ann Lurie Place
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 247-3663
www.chicagosfoodbank.org

Volunteers are the fuel that allows the Greater Chicago Food Depository to distribute more than 65 million pounds of food to neighbors in need. Your family can help assemble individual and family packages of food, check expiration dates, and label and sort packages. Although participants must be at least 14 years old, kids ages 5 to 13 are not left out of the program – they may volunteer with an adult during Kids Days, which occurs monthly.

Northern Illinois Food Bank
273 Dearborn Court
Geneva IL 60134
(630) 443-6910
solvehungertoday.org

Parents seem to think that Thanksgiving morning is a great time to teach their offspring about caring for others – ergo food bank and soup kitchen volunteer lists swell around the middle of November. Volunteering over the summer, though, can be extra helpful to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which works year round to solve hunger within the 13 Chicago-area communities it serves. Not only will your family help to alleviate hunger, but your work is also a boon to the environment. NIFB’s volunteers sort through produce to make sure it’s high quality; the inedible is turned into compost, which heads to a farm to nourish the land. Pretty cool, huh? 

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com..

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