Leslie Bluhm is a leading social entrepreneur committed to instilling an ethic of service and civic engagement in the diverse communities she serves through various ventures.
In 1991, along with Mary Prchal, she founded Chicago Cares, Inc., the city’s premier volunteer service organization, which builds volunteer experiences that mobilize and inspire people to make Chicago a stronger community. While building the capacity of social service agencies and nonprofits throughout Chicago, the organization has designed 30,000 service projects and mobilized more than 450,000 volunteers, contributing more than 1.3 million hours of service to the city since its inception. With 250 monthly group service projects, customized corporate programs and annual events, Chicago Cares’ model nimbly supports the city’s most critical and emergent needs in areas including education, employment, youth development, poverty, and health and wellness.
Chicago Cares partners closely with Chicago’s top corporations, civic leaders and nonprofit organizations to strengthen communities while educating and activating a productive citizen base and instilling a deep sense of civic responsibility. Through service, volunteers gain valuable skills that make them better leaders, employees and citizens, inspiring them to make a lasting commitment to their communities.
Over the years, Ms. Bluhm has served as President and Executive Director of Chicago Cares, and as a dedicated Board member. Under her stewardship, Chicago Cares has grown from a grassroots effort to a large 501(c) (3) non-profit funded by a diverse donor base including corporations, foundations, and individuals. Chicago Cares is one of only three percent of nonprofits to receive Charity Navigator’s highest four-star rating for the last six years. In addition, under Ms. Bluhm’s leadership, Chicago Cares created the two largest days of volunteering in Chicago: The Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon and the Celebration of Service in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. Together these events now activate more than 11,000 people annually.
In addition to her progressive work at Chicago Cares, Ms. Bluhm and her husband David Helfand recently developed the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship, in partnership with Chicago Ideas Week. The Fellowship awards four young leaders who have developed ventures addressing critical social needs, providing them with funding, a platform to tell their story, and help in establishing a community of mentors.
Ms. Bluhm is proud to serve on the board of directors of Chicago Cares, The Chicago Community Trust, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, OneGoal and Shining Hope for Communities.
Ms. Bluhm earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago Law School. She and Mr. Helfand reside in Chicago with their two sons.