NU student guide to volunteering this holiday season and in the new year


Lami Zhang/Daily Senior Staffer

A volunteer strokes a cat in Evanston Animal Shelter.

Isabelle Butera, Reporter

Whether you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity in the new year or a place to spread kindness during the holiday season, Evanston and Chicago have a host of nonprofits seeking volunteers. 

Connections for the Homeless

“Connections for the Homeless is an Evanston nonprofit that provides resources to those who are unhoused or facing housing insecurity. The organization has two “drop-in” locations for participants to pick up basic necessities: its main office at 2121 Dewey Ave. and Hilda’s Place at 1458 Chicago Ave.

During the next several weeks, Connections for the Homeless is seeking volunteers to make bagged or hot lunches at any of its locations. Instructions will be provided, and students can make the bagged lunches on their own timeline, so long as they bring them to the assigned location.

Students can also get involved at one of the organization’s two drop-in locations, either as a front desk volunteer or in the clothing room. Students should note that the locations do not take walk-on volunteers, so they should contact Volunteer Community Partnership Manager Lindsey Wade at [email protected] or sign up online.  

Back on My Feet 

Back on My Feet is a national nonprofit with chapters in 15 cities across the United States using running, community support and employment and housing resources to aid unhoused people. 

The organization’s Chicago chapter works with four houseless and transitional facilities. Individuals at these facilities can become members of Back on my Feet, which facilitates group runs at 5:45 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

Back on My Feet staff and volunteers provide workforce development services for career or housing-related costs like clothing for an interview or the down payment for an apartment. 

Chicago Program Director Nina Riley-Castillo said she would love Northwestern students of all running abilities to volunteer with the program. Students are encouraged to come consistently once a week, but no formal time commitment is required. Interested students will complete a brief form and orientation program on the website

Volunteering with Back on My Feet can introduce students to the perspectives of members who were previously incarcerated or struggled with addiction, Riley-Castillo said.

“You get to really get this firsthand understanding of different lived experiences,” Riley-Castillo said “And I think we all walk away better for that.”

WiseUp: Aging with Attitude 

WiseUp: Aging with Attitude is a nonprofit organization that offers opportunities for support and social connections to older adults in the Evanston area. The organization has about 200 members ranging in age from 50 to 97 years old. 

“Many of them are former professors, they’re highly educated … they all have stories to tell,” Executive Director Paula Cleave said. “They love meeting with young people.” 

North Shore Village is seeking ”kind, caring individuals” willing to commit to more long term volunteering including running errands, driving members to doctor appointments and socializing with members. Since volunteers are usually paired with a member for one-on-one assistance, they undergo a background check and a training program to prepare for volunteering. 

Volunteers could also help with office work, write for the newsletter or assist with marketing for North Shore Village. Interested students can fill out an online application.

Evanston Animal Shelter

Evanston Animal Shelter is a small shelter owned by the city which takes in strays to find them new homes. It offers additional services including an animal food pantry, and temporary care for the pets of displaced families. 

The shelter is currently accepting volunteers to walk dogs or take care of cats. Volunteers must undergo a brief training before joining the team for weekly three-hour shifts. 

While the time commitment for volunteering is limited, the shelter is looking for students able to consistently commit to a shift time. 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of Connections for the Homeless’ drop-in locations for participants to pick up resources. The organization has two drop-in locations: its main office at 2121 Dewey Ave. and Hilda’s Place at 1458 Chicago Ave. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isabelle_butera

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