Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Please Update Your Links

The Chicago Cares blog has moved to Wordpress! Check out the latest news and stories from our events, volunteers and community partners at http://chicagocares.wordpress.com.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Amazing Opportunities in 2011 at Chicago Cares!

As we approach a new year the Chicago Cares team has been working hard to prepare new and exciting volunteer opportunities!  In 2011, Chicago Cares is expanding programs and creating innovative ways for volunteers and leaders to get involved.  New project models, events, leadership and volunteer opportunities will be available to address needs in communities across the Chicagoland area. In the upcoming year Chicago Cares will also be celebrating our 20-year anniversary!  As an organization we have enlisted over 330,000 volunteers in service and contributed over 1.15 million hours of community service to Chicago!  Our wonderful volunteers and partners can look forward to even more quality service opportunities and experiences in the upcoming year.  Please encourage your friends, colleagues and family to volunteer with us in 2011.  We wouldn’t be able to continue our impact without you and your volunteers!

Be sure to keep connected to our current events and volunteer opportunities in 2011!  

People are the Answer. Volunteer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Leader Spotlight: John Nagle

John Nagle is our Leader Spotlight this month. John joined Chicago Cares in 2009 and immediately got involved with our children’s recreation programs. John’s enthusiasm at his projects keeps the volunteers engaged, keeps the kids coming back, and energizes other leaders at his site - Young School. John is currently a leader with Young Sports League and his flexibility is an attribute that has also enabled him to help out with many other programs.
We asked John about his experiences with Chicago Cares projects:

Why do you volunteer at Young Sports League?
“I love teaching the kids sports and trying to be a positive role model for the kids. I have always had this love of sports/coaching and it's great that Chicago Cares has a program where I can realize this.”

Why do you think others should volunteer at Young Sports League or other programs?
“Because it and other programs are so helpful to the kids [and] people that attend them. I feel like I am being a good role model for the kids. I'm also giving the kids attention that they might not be getting at home. You actually might brighten someone's day by communicating with them or showing them some attention. If you are a giving outgoing person, Chicago Cares is the place for you!! You can use your personality for people [and] kids that might need your help.”

What do you enjoy most about your Chicago Cares leadership role?
“It's just connecting with others, whether [it’s through] recruiting/meeting volunteers, playing sports with the kids on their level or bonding with the staff at Young. It's all about the people that I meet. I love people!!”

What is one leadership technique, tip or trick that you'd like to share with fellow leaders?
“…Be aggressive in your leadership… Also, show the more introverted kids/people more attention… Talk to them and try to include them more. Also, Andrew [another leader] showed me to introduce everyone before we play. I still do this because it makes each kid feel important instead of just coming and playing. Make them feel special!”

We are excited to have John as a member of our leadership team. We thank him for his commitment to Young School and Chicago Cares.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Volunteering Does Your Body Good...

“Volunteering makes the heart grow stronger,” said David Eisner, CEO. “More than 61 million Americans volunteer to improve conditions for people in need and to unselfishly give of themselves. While the motivation is altruistic, it is gratifying to learn that their efforts are returning considerable health benefits.”

This quote is from a study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service click here.  Just amazing!  Who would have thought when I signed up to tutor elementary kids in reading or serve dinner to the homeless, I was actually treating my body to some TLC?  

Friends, here is life-changing information.  This is information that will make you go directly to our website, www.chicagocares.org, and register to volunteer more than you ever have before.
Volunteering benefits both mental and physical health; for many of us, this is great news.
  1. Volunteering increases self-confidence. A healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem and life satisfaction is what the doctor ordered. Doing well for others and the community, provides a natural sense of accomplishment.
  2. Volunteering combats depression. Reducing the risk of depression is another important benefit of volunteering. It keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system.  This, in turn, protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times.
  3. Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Volunteering is good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial in older adults. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
Well, I know what I’m going to do right before I log off my computer, what are YOU going to do?

Why Volunteer? Why Not?!

At Chicago Cares, we are fortunate to have a lot of amazing and very dedicated volunteers who understand the importance of service and realize all rewards associated with it.  Occasionally, however, we hear questions from outsiders who don’t fully grasp the purpose of or privileges involved with volunteering.  We would like to highlight some of the many reasons you should volunteer, and you may be surprised by some of the benefits!

Make a Difference
It’s a given that volunteering provides an opportunity to help others and to make an impact on the world.  You can contribute to a cause that you care about, share your passion with others, and give back to your community.  By committing a bit of your time, you can support families, improve schools, beautify your neighborhood, changes the lives of children and youth.  But your contribution doesn’t stop with each hour you give.  According to the Independent Sector, a volunteer’s time is estimated to be worth an average of $20.85 per hour!  That means that by volunteering, you are enabling monetary resources to be stretched further and spent on other initiatives and local improvements.

Make Friends and Social Connections
Facebook, Twitter, and social media are great, but human interaction is even better!  Get out in your community, meet new people, and make new friends.  If you have recently moved, volunteering is a great way to check out your new city or neighborhood and start making connections!  Volunteering is also a great way to build professional contacts and network with a variety of people.  Love connections have also been known to happen at service projects from time to time – but we make no guarantees!

Help Your Career and Build Your Resume
Volunteering can help you learn new skills to add to your resume, and it looks great to employers and schools.  It’s also a great way to develop communication, teamwork, and leadership skills!  If you are considering a career change, volunteering your time at a local agency or non-profit can help you explore new possibilities.  If you are unemployed, volunteering can fill employment gaps on your resume and allow you make important networking connections!  You can stay sharp and use your skills in a productive way that also benefits others. 

Better Yourself
If you feel like you need a change, challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons.  If you crunch numbers all day, get involved with artistic or creative projects.  Or if you don’t interact much with children or seniors, try it out!  Many people find they feel better about themselves, and discover new passions or skills when they volunteer.  It can also provide a sense of belonging and purpose to those who are going through life transitions.  AARP recently reported that chronic loneliness is becoming an increasing problem among those age 45 and older; yet, they also found that people who volunteered were less likely to report being lonely that those who did not. 

Keep Learning
By working with non-profit organizations and public schools or agencies, you can learn a lot about local government and municipal operations. Through educational programs with children or adults, you could freshen up your math skills, brush up on your Spanish, or make a connection between history and current events.  Volunteers may also find hidden talents or learn something new about themselves in the process!

It’s Good for Your Health
In a survey released by UnitedHealthcare, volunteers reported reduced stress levels and said that volunteering made them feel healthier; additionally, it suggests that volunteers even have healthier BMIs than people who do not volunteer.  This survey also shows that people who volunteer are more satisfied with their lives and optimistic than non-volunteers.  And according to a report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, several studies have shown that volunteers have lower mortality rates, better health, and lower levels of depression.

If That Isn’t Enough…
In case you still are not convinced, Chicago Cares Service Events Coordinator, Megan Germain, explains her motivation for volunteering:
“I would not consider myself a very religious person, rather more spiritual, but Luke 12:48 says, “To whom much is given is much required.”  I certainly do not have oodles of time and money to give away; however, I still have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a warm, safe house, a loving family, and nutritious food at every meal.  
Money may not be something I can easily part with, but I can sacrifice an extra hour or two a week that I would ordinarily spend in front of the television or on Facebook.  My time is better used helping others to achieve safe, warm housing or a good meal.  Much has been given to me in life, via pure luck, hard work, or other’s generosity.  It is merely my civic duty to pay that forward.  Imagine if everyone were to give of their time as it equates with the blessings in their lives - what would the world be like?”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spread Some Cheer...Throughout the Year!

It’s that time of year once again!  Feasts are being planned.  Gift lists are being made.  Festive moods and generous spirits are abundant.  Right around this time, Chicago Cares starts receiving calls from people who want to volunteer in a way that will make someone’s holiday a little brighter.  We also want to spread the cheer and have several opportunities for those wishing to give back all season-long.  Please note that our Thanksgiving programs filled up quickly, as do all of our holiday celebrations, so be sure to sign up early!

Most of our children’s programs that take place at various schools and agencies around the city will be celebrating the season with special activities and field trips, especially on December 4.  You can also pack food baskets at Breakthrough Urban Ministries in East Garfield Park on December 22 to ensure that local families can enjoy a warm Christmas dinner together.  On December 24, you can help prepare and serve a hearty holiday meal for the women at Deborah’s Place on the Near North Side.

Chicago Cares is also going caroling on December 11 and 18!  Break out your fuzzy hats and warm up your vocal chords – although no choral experience is required!  Join other volunteers and some Chicago Cares staff to bring joy to seniors at several nursing homes and independent-living facilities around the city!  Song books and refreshments will be available, as well as transportation between the sites.  Remember to sign up early to secure a spot!

We are grateful for the abundance of eager individuals who want to volunteer this time of year, and we often hear from our partners that they also see an increase in volunteers around the holidays.  This season certainly brings out the best in people and some are disappointed if there isn’t space left at special holiday projects.  On behalf of all those we serve, we would like to encourage everyone to remember that the needs being met on holidays can also be met every other day of the year, too!  If your favorite project is already full, why not try a new one the following week or maybe even the following month?   After the holiday festivities have quieted down and people have returned to their regular schedules, you may just cross paths with the same seniors or same children on a day when they really need some extra attention – and that interaction may mean the world to them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Leader Spotlight: Lexi Tarnow

Volunteering with Chicago Cares became a lot more exciting in February 2009 when Lexi Tarnow joined our organization. Lexi started volunteering at a variety of ongoing hunger and health programs and quickly transitioned into a leadership role within her first six months. Since then, we’ve heard that every project with Lexi is like a party!  She is passionate about the work that happens at her projects and makes sure everyone knows how important their role is in the process.

Lexi shared some information with us about her program ‘Shopping on Broadway’:
This project is very unique in its set-up, but not in its mission.  Like many projects within Chicago Cares, even though we volunteers are often behind the scenes, what we have accomplished does not go unnoticed.  With each list we check, and each shopping cart we fill up, we are essentially getting our clients food that will sustain them and their families for the coming days and weeks.  Nothing is better than realizing that!  [Shopping on Broadway] and many [Chicago Cares] projects can be summed up by this quote: ‘No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another’ (Unknown).”
We also asked Lexi what she enjoys most about her Chicago Cares leadership role. This is what she had to say: “Just one day a month not only helps the clients, but new friendships are also made between all of us which strengthens our community!  An outgoing bunch, we chat and catch up on each others’ lives all while shopping, restocking shelves, and bagging groceries.  That camaraderie is something each of us looks forward to, not to mention what makes my leadership role so fun…and easy!  This project wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the ‘A Team’!”
Since Lexi’s projects are so popular, we wanted to know what leadership trick she would pass on to others. She said, “If your project allows it…tunes!  Music keeps the energy up and the clients love to sing along (and dance) too!”
Chicago Cares appreciates Lexi’s energy and enthusiasm. You can meet Lexi at ‘Shopping on Broadway’ projects one Saturday each month.