Whether they be borrowed from Divvy or safely locked up for the winter in our apartment utility rooms, it’s easy to take our trusty bicycle steeds for granted. But, for those without access to this simple mode of transportation, these babies can be life-changers. Enter: Working Bikes. This outfit fixes up old bikes to donate to those in need in third world countries or right here in our own backyard. Those wanting to help can drop by the warehouse during volunteer hours (Tuesdays 5 to 9 p.m., Wednesdays noon to 5 p.m. and Saturdays noon to 5) to help spruce up a bike, help pack a container at shipping parties, assist in the storefront, host fundraisers, or even become committee members. Email email@example.com for more information.
Working Bikes, 2434 South Western Avenue (between 24th Place and 25th Street); 773-847-5440.
Girls Rock! Chicago
Nonprofit Girls Rock! Chicago is cool enough to make us wish we were back in middle school. Well...almost. This local organization encourages girls ages 8 to 16 to express themselves creatively through — what else? — rock music. The group hosts a week-long summer camp for girls where they receive instrument lessons and participate in practice, workshops, and an end-of-season recording session. Instruments are provided, and the camp is run with the help of volunteers (like you!) who act as counselors, teachers, roadies, greeters, and kitchen helpers, to name a few. If you simply can’t wait for next season, email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can help now.
Girls Rock! Chicago, 2623 West Armitage Avenue (between Rockwell Street and Washtenaw Avenue); 773-289-2670.
Erie Neighborhood House
We can’t imagine a world without books, so Erie Neighborhood House’s new reading initiative, Little Village READS, gives our inner-library nerd reason to rejoice by pairing you up with first through third grade students who need a little extra help. The organization is currently seeking volunteers to read to students and interact in literary games beginning January 6, so start cracking open those books! Volunteer hours are Monday through Thursday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Email Rachel Serra at email@example.com for more information.
Erie Neighborhood House, 4225 West 25th Street (between South Kildare and South Keeler avenues); 773-542-7617.
Put your cooking skills to good use at the Inspiration Corporation. What began as a restaurant that assisted the underserved more than 20 years ago has since grown into a much larger corporation offering meals, housing, employment prep training, and free voicemail to more than 3,000 homeless and impoverished individuals. If you’re not exactly chef material, don't worry. You can also serve, create bag lunches, assist with mock interviews, tutor, and help to fulfill administrative duties.
Inspiration Corporation, 4554 North Broadway Street, Suite 207 (between Montrose and Wilson avenues); 773-878-0981.
Freezin for a Reason
On January 11, the braver souls amongst you will want to head on over to Foster Avenue Beach for Project Rescue Chicago’s “Freezin for a Reason” event. Participants will raise money and awareness for the rescue, rehabilitation, and placement of homeless dogs and puppies by doing the unthinkable: jumping into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan. PR raised more than $25,000 last year and is hoping to beat its own record (hint, hint!). Not sure you’re quite ready to take the plunge? You can go halfsies and just submerge your legs — or stay on dry land to offer moral support to those that do. Special cocktails will be waiting for you afterward at Fireside Inn, and all participants will receive a gift.
Registration is $25 and check-in starts at 10:15 a.m.
Freezing for a Reason, Foster Avenue Beach, 5200 North Lake Shore Drive (at Edens Expressway); 312-623-0939.
Step Up Women’s Network
As women, it’s kind of our job to have each other’s backs — and that’s exactly what Step Up Women’s Network manages to accomplish. Empowering underprivileged young ladies to seek and gain both education and employment, Step Up offers support and after school programming to teens living at or below the federal poverty level. Just $75 (tax deductible) will get you “insider” status, which makes you eligible for volunteering opportunities and gets you access to Step Up's amazing networking events.
Step Up Women’s Network, 20 North Wacker Drive, Suite 1330 (between Washington and Madison streets); 312-904-2000.
Little Brothers Friends of the Eldery
Volunteering doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes, it’s as simple as just showing up. As proof positive, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly pairs volunteers with an elderly person to visit twice a month to help keep the loneliness at bay. You can come by yourself or bring your entire family. In-home birthday parties and celebration visits also ensure your new friend won’t be left alone on their special days. Who knows? You might even make a new lifelong pal!
Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, 355 North Ashland Avenue (at Arbor Place), 312-455-1000.
Tree House Humane Society
We’re going to let you in on a little secret — we’re total cat ladies. So, if you’re a cat lady (or dude!), the Tree House Humane Society is the place for you. This cageless no-kill shelter houses approximately 200 cats at any given time, many of whom are sick or injured rescued strays. You can help by working directly with the felines as a caregiver, help them find forever homes as an adoption counselor, offer your administrative support, or assist with off-site events — the choice is yours. Volunteer hours are Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and a minimum of six hours per month is suggested.
Tree House Humane Society, 1212 West Carmen Avenue (between Broadway Street and Glenwood Avenue) and 1629 North Ashland Avenue (between North and Wabansia avenues); 773-784-5488 ext. 228.
Even though you hated when your mom threatened the whole no dessert until you finish your veggies thing, not every kid is as lucky to have the path of health paved before them. So, Common Threads (the brainchild of chef Art Smith and artist Jesus Salgueiro) serves to teach underprivileged children how to cook healthy and affordable meals to ensure a proper diet. Classes are led by trained chef instructions and volunteers just like you, who help to lead kids through weekly recipes at one of 28 Chicago locations. Contact Bill Finn at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Common Threads, 500 North Dearborn, Suite 605 (between Grand Avenue and Illinois Street); 312-329-2501.
One Good Deed Chicago
If you really want to get philanthropic in 2014, keep track of new and upcoming local volunteer opportunities with One Good Deed Chicago. This site exists solely to keep you in the loop on what’s going on around you and how you can help. Join the volunteer team for personalized newsletters or simply check the website’s listings board to gain up-to-date info on a bevy of local charities and events. Cheers to becoming a better you!