Our Favorite Chicagoland Charities

Now that the rush of Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday, and Cyber Monday has passed, my favorite day is here…”Giving Tuesday.”  Yes, I got many a great deal yesterday on gifts for my family, but paying it forward and giving back to my community truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  The tricky thing for me is narrowing down my choices of what organizations to support, since there are so many wonderful ones…and unfortunately a few scams going on especially around the holidays.  So I have decided to use one of my absolute favorite quotes by Margaret Mead to drive my holiday giving this year…”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  So I hope this list of our favorite Chicagoland Charities inspires you to give back this holiday season, on “Giving Tuesday” and every other day of the year:

Photo by Kristen Lisa Photography

Open Books
  • As a Reading Specialist, Open Books is an organization that is near and dear to my heart because it provides enriching literacy experiences for thousands of youth in the Chicagoland area.  Similar to YSA, it collaborates with schools that struggle with a lack of funding and resources by providing reading intervention and enrichment programs.  This aid comes in a variety of ways, ranging from programs such as “Open Books Buddies,” “Adventures in Creative Writing” field trips, “ReadThenWrite,” “Publishing Academy,” and “Wordshops.”


  • Another facet of Open Books is their dedication to getting high quality books into children’s hands.  Through their book programs such as “Book Worm Angels” and “Book Grants,” Open Books is able to create libraries in schools and nonprofit centers, as well as support literacy events within the Chicagoland community.


  • You can either donate money or sellable books in order to support Open Books.  Information on how to help is available here and here.  You can also volunteer with Open Books, click here for more information.
The Center for Enriched Living
  • Located in north suburban Ravenswood, the Center serves people with developmental disabilities by providing a great variety of programs so that members can learn new skills in order to promote social inclusion and independent living.  There are many different programs for members to choose from to fit all schedules and budgets, especially since many members are at or below poverty level.


  • Volunteers are always welcome and information regarding this and all types of assistance is available here.


  • To celebrate “Giving Tuesday,” all online donations made today will be MATCHED!

Photo by Kristen Lisa Photography

The Kid’s Pantry
  • I am so proud to have such a wonderful resource in my community.  The Kids’ Pantry is an organization that provides free and gently used children’s goods to families in the area.  It is a unique organization because it does not require proof of hardship and instead focuses on helping families financially during tough times without being demeaning.  Goods are disperesed on a weekly and semi-annual basis


  • Donations are accepted on business days, and your financial donation is always welcome.  You can find information regarding donations here.  Volunteers are always welcome to help sort through the mountains of donations that are received.
The Little Giraffe Foundation
  • This outstanding family oriented foundation is dedicated to funding neonatal research and supporting patients and parents in the NICU. Started by Mike and Amanda Santoro after losing their sweet Cheyenne, this family was determined to do great things in honor of their daughter.  Since they started their nonprofit organization in 2011, they have pulled together a team of solely volunteers who have worked valiantly to improve the quality of life for preemies and their families across Chicagoland.


  • The Little Giraffe Foundation currently collaborates with 12 hospitals in the area to provide resources for families who are experiencing the stress and anxiety of extended hospital stays. Through their NICU grant support, the Little Giraffe Foundation has been able to provide gas cards, food pantries, parking vouchers, toys, and books to help not only ease the financial strain of lengthy hospital stays, but also help parent and child bond. One of the best ways that you can help extend their reach and help NICU families to have a happy holiday is to donate a book or toy from their Amazon wish list. You can even use your stockpiled Amazon points to help the Little Giraffe Foundation reach more families this holiday season.


  • In addition to working to support NICU families, the Little Giraffe Foundation also holds events and other fundraisers throughout the year in order to fund studies and neonatal research so that families like the Santoros can learn more about why their sweet babies are struggling and what their support team can do to help them to thrive. By the end of 2015 this amazing organization will have distributed nearly $100,000 in grants and helped over 6,000 NICU families. With your help it can grow before the end of the year.

There are so many great organizations to chose from, and no matter who you chose to support this holiday season, I want to thank you for helping our global community grow. My family and I are also involved in some simple ways to help improve Chicagoland this holiday season, from sponsoring kids’ holiday wishes for warm hats and gloves during the holidays to shoveling the driveway of our elderly neighbors. We are all in this together, and don’t forget that this is truly the season of giving.

What are some of your favorite Chicagoland charities? Leave them in the comments so I can check them out!

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  1. Amanda Huffman says

    Giving Tuesday sounds like a great idea. We often focus on ourselves during the holidays we may forget there are others in need. I love the Open Books organization, I’m going to check them out some more.

  2. Natalie Busch says

    Such awesome causes. I have heard a lot about Giving Tuesday, mostly because my daughter’s school is a non profit and they operate off of people that care enough to give. By the way tonight I cooked your Thyme Chicken crock pot meal! Delicious.

  3. Tara says

    Great list! There is something so life giving about giving back to others. I do what I can but sometimes wish I could do more. Love the Mead quote. I think I have it on a tshirt.

    • Amanda says

      I just dropped off a massive box of Christmas decor to the Kids’ Pantry. It feels so good to make the holidays magical for those who are having a hard time this season.

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