Looking for last-minute Chicago Christmas charities
December 17, 2011 5:06 AM   Subscribe

Good morning, MeFi's! It's not to late for me to make Christmas better for some deserving kids and families in Chicago, is it?

I'm fortunate enough this year to be able to make a significant charitable contribution of some kind.

But rather than simply write a check and call it a happy holiday, I'd prefer to do something more local and meaningful. Like making a child's Christmas wish come true or enabling a family to celebrate the holiday that otherwise wouldn't be able to.

The problem is, with Christmas a week away, I'm a little late to the game and past a lot of charities' deadlines. (Next year, I'm preparing more ahead of time.)

So, Mefites, any thoughts for
- Something local to Chicago or Evanston
- Not particularly religiously affiliated
- Still accepting donations of gifts, clothing, etc.

Thanks in advance for ho-ho-hoping me and some needy kids and families.
posted by Work to Live to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Check your local food bank. They're pretty much always looking for donations, but this time of year they tend to get flooded with certain kinds of items at the exclusion of others. Everyone thinks about the stuff for Christmas dinner, but all sorts of non-perishable and even non-food items are always in demand, and dropping off some of things they're currently short on is always welcome. Some food banks have a web page which lists items which are currently needed, but not all do, and even those that have one may not update it religiously. Give 'em a call.

Along those lines, a lot of food banks prepare Christmas baskets for needy families. These baskets are filled with donated goods, but are normally assembled by volunteers. I'd be surprised if they're not still looking for volunteers to do this.

A word about food banks and religion. Yes, lots of food banks are nominally affiliated with Christian churches, but most of them are 1) pretty ecumenical about it, in that they'll have relationships with just about every church in town, and 2) tend not to be all that pushy about stuff.
posted by valkyryn at 5:14 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Look for a local Giving Tree program. Here's info about an online one, but maybe you can visit a store and donate directly to them:


I suppose the Salvation Army is religious, so this might not work for you.
posted by Gorgik at 5:36 AM on December 17, 2011

I don't know how much money you might want to spend, but this post on Metafilter talks about good samaritans going to local stores to pay off the layaway tabs of the less fortunate.
posted by MegoSteve at 6:14 AM on December 17, 2011

It's never too late to donate money to any worthy nonprofit. But yes, most charities are done collecting stuff because they are now in content management phase; that is, they are counting, collating, and organizing their donations of stuff in order to equitably give it away.

If you definitely have stuff and want to give it, you might try contacting a local school - charter schools in Chicago have offices set up for processing donations so you may have more luck with a charter than a regular neighborhood school who don't have staff on-hand to determine what to do with your gift.

I know for a fact that the Greater Chicago Food Depository is still collecting food. See Every1Can for details. I suspect it's too late to sign on for a volunteer slot this late in the year but it's worth a try to call.

To make a gift with maximum impact, though, remember that a really great nonprofit will use your gift in the smartest way possible. That means offering services and support to those in need regardless of the time of year. Yes, it's nice to give at Christmas, but why not just make an unrestricted gift to a charity whose mission you value and who uses your money wisely?
posted by juniperesque at 6:35 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could give items to a homeless shelter, I'm sure there's families staying there over the holidays. You could possibly call and see if you can also add a holiday item or two to the needed items donations.
posted by ejaned8 at 6:52 AM on December 17, 2011

I was also coming in to suggest the Chicagoland Greater Food Depository. They do really good work.

You also might want to contact Children's Memorial Hospital or La Rabida if you want to donate toys.

We've also donated to a number of places this year. It's really nice to be able to.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:54 AM on December 17, 2011

The Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University Law Center is collecting stuff for the kids in the Audy Home/JDOC. I can't find my copy of the list, but it's things like toiletries, approved clothing, necessities, mostly, not fun stuff. CFJC is a really dedicated group of people who give those kids very needed help. Donating to their basic needs while in detention goes a long way toward easing their families' burdens as well as toward rehabilitating the kids.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2011

The Children's Place Association is a wonderful organization that helps children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. Almost all the families they serve are below the poverty line. There are some ideas on their home page, and I know they always need things like nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies, and toiletries - everyday things to most people, but luxuries for the families they serve.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:02 PM on December 17, 2011

I second/Nth the nomination of The Greater Chicago Food Depository.

full disclosure: I have served as an Americorps member through a GCFD team doing work on hunger in Chicago.

And while I realize that you've asked specifically for places that are accepting in-kind (food/gift) donations, and while GCFD will gladly take cans of food or whatnot....

Be aware that they are able to leverage the purchasing power of literally hundreds of food banks to purchase food at rates far below what you'll pay in the grocery store. In fact, GCFD commits to offer a basket of staple items to its member pantries at 7 cents a pound. Seven. Cents.

So again, while they will cheerfully take your in-kind donation, it's actually much more effective to make a financial donation that will enable them to offer much more food not just at Christmas, but when and where it is most needed.

Regardless of what you decide, thank you for your generosity!
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:44 PM on December 17, 2011

Oh, and if you go the homeless shelter route:

Men's briefs are expensive and always in demand, men's socks too. Homeless guys often have no way to wash clothes, so they basically have to wear their underwear until they get a new pair or go commando. Socks get soaked quickly and again must either be worn or thrown out. Razors. Small hotel-style bars of soap. Men's jeans. Hoodies.
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:51 PM on December 17, 2011

Domestic violence shelters. They usually have kids who came with their mothers and who are in need of gifts. You could be the bright spot in an otherwise scary and grim holiday.
posted by dovesandstones at 8:44 PM on December 17, 2011

You can still answer a child's letter to Santa and grant their gift request via the Sun-Times Season of Sharing.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:07 PM on December 17, 2011

« Older Siri listens too fast, Siri is impatient, and Siri...   |   Bueller? Anyone? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.