This week is National Volunteer Week, and one of Chicago’s largest charitable organizations is mobilizing a small army of locals to hit the streets and do some good.
The United Way of Metropolitan Chicago has organized a “Week of Caring,” with 24 service events that hundreds if not thousands of employees from major corporations around the city will take part in between now and this coming Sunday.
Tuesday morning, a group of ComEd workers were at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, taking bulk donations of food and breaking them down into packages for individual families. On Thursday, Microsoft employees will help the Camp Fire USA Illinois Prairie Council, a nonprofit youth organization, with office tasks and phone calls. Volunteers will be working at other charities, YMCAs and schools around the city.
“People truly want to give back to the community,” said Gwen Sims, the director of volunteer services at UW-MC. “It’s an opportunity for them to improve the place where they live and work.”
The Week of Caring is an extension of a year-round program the United Way runs, called, unsurprisingly, Days of Caring. The organization works with its nonprofit partners and its corporate partners to put together day-long volunteering trips. “It’s a way for the employees that donate (to United Way) to see the kind of work their dollars do in the community,” Sims said. And for service organizations, which are almost universally facing harsh budget cuts from the cash-strapped state and city governments, it’s access to free labor.
The numbers are still coming in on how many volunteers will participate in this year’s Week of Caring, but last year’s event, the first annual, brought more than 1,000 volunteers, who gave more than 4,200 volunteer hours. That saved nonprofits around the city around $100,000 in saved labor costs, Sarah Frick of UW-MC said.
According to Sims, most of the volunteer projects planned for the week are already filled up with volunteers. But she said readers can take part in the week-long book drive, where the United Way is gathering books to be sent to local literacy programs. Individuals can donate books at United Way’s downtown offices at 560 W. Lake Street downtown.
And the organization is always looking for more volunteers: Gwen Sims can be reached at (312) 906-2299, and encouraged readers to call and offer their time.
For more service opportunities during National Volunteer Week, visit One Good Deed Chicago, the city’s online volunteering database.