Chicago is not only a city of neighborhoods – it’s a city of neighbors.
At United Way of Metro Chicago, we’re in the business of meeting our neighbors all across the city and suburbs. We understand that people living in our communities of focus often know better than anyone else what their communities need, so we dedicate our resources to helping our agency partners best meet their goals.
This extends to our volunteering. We know that volunteers can make a big difference for cash-strapped non-profit organizations, but we also know that preparing for a volunteer’s arrival or being available to answer their questions requires staff capacity. That’s why we ask our agencies to tell us when and how they can use volunteer assistance in order to help them find the support they need.
Fortunately, we have amazing volunteers who give us endless reasons to celebrate this National Volunteer Week. Did you know that people who volunteer report being both happier and healthier than those who don’t? They are also likely to derive great satisfaction from having made a difference by serving others.
Volunteers with United Way partners and programs also have a chance to meet some incredible neighbors.
Neighbors like Principal Michael Hinton at Hoyne Elementary School in South Chicago, who hosted our United for the Holidays event last December. Principal Hinton cares deeply about his students and getting them the resources they need, especially when their needs include basic items such as winter coats and a warm meal. His hospitality extends through his staff and students, all of whom welcomed our volunteers—often with hugs—into their school.
Or neighbors who accessed free tax preparation assistance through the Center for Economic Progress’s VITA program, like a father of four from the Brighton Park community. This neighbor, who supports his entire family on a $27,000 income, worked with volunteer tax preparers who helped him access a huge tax refund with the EITC tax credit. When he learned of his refund, he thanked the volunteers with quiet dignity and genuine gratefulness.
Sometimes our neighbors are children, like the pre-school students who attend Carole Robertson Center for Learning in North Lawndale. They loved nothing more than having their faces painted at a summer carnival hosted in the Center’s backyard, which was made possible thanks to the creativity and steady hand of volunteers.
If you’re ready to start meeting your neighbors, we hope you’ll check out our new Volunteer Calendar. We created this calendar to allow our agency partners to tell us about their volunteer needs, and to give potential volunteers a clear picture of how they can help their communities. There are opportunities for groups and individuals at agencies in the city and the suburbs. Some need volunteers to support a one-time project, while others need people who can commit to come back week after week.
All of our opportunities provide volunteers with the chance to meet their neighbors and serve the communities in greatest need.
We hope you’ll come out and start meeting your neighbors too.