Helping Hands: Chicago Cares Hosts Serve-A-Thon and More


John Zich

Volunteers at Chicago Cares’ 2014 Serve-a-thon build a park bench, one of many diverse projects volunteers engage in during the annual day of service.

June 27 marks a day of selflessness in Chicago as 5,000 volunteers will gather in Daley Plaza and board buses to different communities to lend their time and talent to make a difference. From painting schools to working in parks, Chicago Cares’ ‘Serve-A-Thon’ has a mission – to give people an opportunity to do some good.

“Serve-A-Thon has been happening for 22 years,” said Alex Baird, Manager of Marketing and Communications for Chicago Cares. “In that time it’s kind of evolved and grown to where it is today, which is the city’s largest day of service.”

Chicago Cares has worked with 500,000 volunteers in total since it was founded in 1991 and the organization continues to grow.

“We have more than 200 programs every month where people can just sign up online and then go volunteer at anything from a senior home to a shelter to a food pantry,” said Baird. “We try to make it really easy for people to get involved in volunteering.”

Baird went on to say that many volunteers enjoy their experiences with Chicago Cares so much that they continue to be involved throughout the year or repeatedly register for Serve-A-Thon.

One such volunteer is Charla Travis. Travis is an Interior Designer who believes that volunteering with Chicago Cares creates positive changes in communities.

“Chicago Cares is on a mission to build a stronger Chicago,” said Travis, who’s been volunteering with the organization for several years. “Everyone who volunteers or even works for Chicago Cares believes in the impact that their time will give and to be a part of that team making a difference is a great feeling.”

Travis began volunteering when a friend of hers invited her to attend a volunteer event. She feels the best part of volunteering is the sense of accomplishment that comes at the end of a project.

“To see the changes in the community after a few hours of work is the best about volunteering,” said Travis.

Eric Ma, a business analyst for JP Morgan Chase, shares Travis’ sentiments.

Ma said that he would encourage anyone to volunteer with Chicago Cares because his experiences have been extremely positive.

“Chicago Cares has proven to be the best source for anything volunteer based in town,” said Ma. “The [web]site is constantly refreshed and up to date, and there’s a large variety of events to choose from.”

Baird said Chicago Cares offers a lot of opportunities as a way to support other non-profits, help them grow their capacity and make them stronger.

“A lot of other non-profits have a lot of requirements to get involved or a long time commitment,” said Baird. “We try to make it super easy. You just sign up online and then you try it out once and if you really like it you can go back; and if you don’t, you can try something else…. There are opportunities to volunteer all the time – six days a week.”