The coronavirus pandemic has caused major changes across all industries in the Chicagoland area; including important areas of nonprofit and volunteering sectors. Due to all that our country has gone through, volunteering is needed now more than ever!
“As you might have guessed, volunteering in the time of the pandemic is more complicated than in normal circumstances. Organizations not only have the logistical challenges of managing surges in the demand for some services but there’s also a need to keep everyone safe. Always take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and others safe, whether you’re volunteering with an organization or helping out friends or people in your neighborhood.” Everyday Health
The generosity of the public is greatly appreciated by nonprofit organizations and they want everyone to remain safe while giving back to their communities. You may be wondering, “How can I volunteer without putting myself and others at risk?” Checkexpress has found some outstanding organizations and volunteering opportunities that are safe for all those involved!
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Check out this list of safe volunteering opportunities in Illinois as the pandemic continues…
Do you feel convinced to help others, especially after everything we endured in 2020?
Once you have made the generous decision to help others, you are already on a great path to volunteering! Your actions are motivated from your heart. Have a heart to heart with your loved ones to get started:
- Talents: Sit down and write out a list of what you have to offer as a family and/or individual.
- Time: Really take a look at the areas of your life you and how much time you can offer specifically for volunteering. It can look like 1 hour a week or 2 hours a month. Whatever time you can give to helping others is precious.
- Donations: Consider other ways to give. Maybe time isn’t your number one resource for helping others. You’re physically and emotionally already stretched too thin and can’t donate any more of your time right now. Don’t fret, there are a variety of ways to give back! You can donate clothing, money, non perishable foods, coats, shoes, and even books!
The desire to help others is a great place to start. Next comes figuring out what programs need the most help in your area and how to get involved!
Do some research on local organizations, health systems, elderly communities and food banks in your area. Local school boards and IL.gov are also in need of help. Fortunately Checkexpress has already curated a long list of possibilities, saving you some time from researching!
Here are a few options of the types of local organizations that could use your help…
More than 40 million Americans live in households that are food insecure, which means that they don’t have the resources to regularly acquire nutritious, safe food. Food banks are almost always in need of nonperishable food items, but most people only turn their attention to feeding hungry people around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. While it’s great that these seasons encourage acts of giving, food banks need help year round.
Here are some local food banks that could use some support:
- Greater Chicago Food Bank (Chicago, IL) is part of a united community effort working to bring food, dignity and hope to our Cook County neighbors. They act as the hub for a network of more than 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs. These programs provide food where it’s most needed. The Greater Chicago Food bank also addresses the root causes of hunger. Public benefits outreach and job training programs offer support for our neighbors to overcome poverty. They also have a program that helps you create your own food drive event! Connect with their volunteer services to learn more.
- Hunger Resource Network (Northbrook, IL) is a non-profit organization based in Northbrook, IL. Hunger Resource Network, founded in 2009, is dedicated to help alleviate hunger in the Chicago area by meeting the needs of food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. Here are some possible volunteering options with Hunger Resource Network.
- Lakeview Pantry (Chicago, IL) recently celebrated 50 years of community engagement, action and collaboration. Fifty years ago, a small, dedicated group began a grassroots effort to help the neighbors in their community who needed it most, and the People’s Pantry of Lakeview was born. Serving just under 100 people in our first year, today Lakeview Pantry is on track to provide more than 100,000 clients with 4 million meals through 57,000 site visits, Online Market orders, and dozens of community pop-up partnerships this year. Connect with Lakeview Pantry here.
Quick tip: Check out family resources for relief during COVID-19.
Local School Districts
When the pandemic struck, many families in the Chicagoland area became financially challenged and unable to maintain their household incomes. The pandemic has required some workers to leave their jobs to care for their children learning from home, forced some to take furloughs or early retirement, and left many others unable to work because they are at high risk for severe illness.
With so many families in a financial crisis, school districts and school boards are asking for donations and help to keep these families fed and afloat. District 214 Education Foundation has launched the 214 Cares Emergency Fund. Community members are invited and encouraged to donate to this emergency fund online at 214foundation.org. All gifts will go directly to District 214 students and families based on the guidance and recommendations of school staff. These dollars may support housing needs, utility needs, basic living needs, academic needs and more.
“In times of crisis, it is essential that emergency funds are deployed quickly to those who need them most. The current pandemic and its resulting consequences – including job loss – has adversely affected many of our District 214 students and families. This is our family, and these students need your help. While typically approximately 1 in 3 of our students live in poverty, we now have even more families with pressing, essential needs. Your donations have helped us raise over $100,000, helping more than 350 families. But the needs are on pace to far outweigh what has been collected.”
Quick tip: Searching for a new job in 2021? Read our blog for tips on finding your next career move.
- Virtual mentors, tutors, and coaches are welcomed! CPS (Chicago Public Schools) welcome parents and community stakeholders who wish to contribute their valuable time and talents to enriching the academic experience of our students. Volunteer activities offer parents and community members opportunities to engage with their local school and support student learning. These experiences are mutually rewarding to students, parents, partners, and schools volunteering. Connect with CPS virtual volunteering options today to help these students achieve their goals!
- Calling all book lovers! Help out kids with reading barriers with BookShare, an e-book library that helps people with dyslexia, learning disabilities, visual impairments, physical disabilities, and other reading barriers to read and enjoy stories. Containing over 800,000 titles, BookShare is always looking for volunteers to help expand its library. Volunteers can scan books to the platform, as well as proofread and describe images. This is a fun volunteering project for the whole family.
Celebrate the amazing educators of Illinois! They have dedicated their time and energy to learning new tools and teaching our children safely via remote e-learning and hybrid classrooms during the pandemic. We have all found a greater appreciation for teachers as we’ve seen just how much effort and passion they put into helping students learn and giving them support during these tumultuous times. Read our blog on showing teachers appreciation with creative gift ideas!
Interested in volunteering from the safety of your own home?
“Volunteering from home is a great way to spend some of your time during social isolation, and it’s much needed. No matter what your skillsets and passions are, there are numerous opportunities to volunteer online or from your home (or at a safe social distance). “
There are a variety of user-friendly volunteer search engines that allow you to search for remote opportunities via keywords like location and volunteer needs:
As a local family business, Checkexpress feels deeply connected to our community and knows just how important it is to look out for each other. Kindness is more important now than ever! While most of us are busy, we believe in the spirit of volunteerism – any way you are able to give back makes a difference.
This is only Part One, stay tuned for Part Two of our Volunteering blog series!
Our company has a long standing tradition of giving back to the people, communities and neighborhoods we serve. Through donations and contributions we offer support to a broad range of organizations and programs including the American Red Cross, Illinois Fire Safety Education, YMCA, and many other worthwhile causes. Our state association, The Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois, sponsors a fantastic program in which school supplies are given to families in need. Additionally, our national association, Financial Service Centers of America, offers college scholarships to deserving students throughout the country.