Photo by sotaliya via Twenty20

By Ashley Alt

New Years is the perfect time to hit the reset button – a time to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and setbacks, and a time to contemplate on how we can better serve ourselves and the world. From donating to your favorite charity to raising awareness on environmental issues, this is the time of year where many people and organizations pose the question, “How can I better contribute to my community?”

Chicago has long been known for its eagerness to give back to the community and find inspiring ways to make the city the best it can be. With the support of an overwhelming amount of companies, organizations, and individuals living in the Windy City, those feel-good actions spread even further as resolutions to make the new year better are turned into actions.

We spoke to some companies in Chicago who not only have big plans for giving back in 2018, but have an instilled philanthropic approach within their organizations for every month of the year.

Technology Meets Giving Back

Payline, a Pineapple Payments company, offers industry-leading technology and products to power killer payment experiences. Their omni-channel solutions provide options for businesses across all industries and sizes tailored to suit the individual needs of the client. For Payline employees, giving back is part of the job all year round. Simply put: it’s part of who they are at Payline.

Zach Dillman, chairman of the Payline Giving Board and director of inside sales, commented that the company provides this initiative because one of their core values is to create a positive impact in the community.

“We do this because we believe that creating a positive impact in our community comes above all else,” Dillman said. “It’s our people – the employees, customers and communities we serve – who drive our mission and are the ultimate fuel behind what we aim to accomplish.”

Each year, Payline chooses 12 hand-selected causes to support, striving to connect their customers to the vision of making a positive impact in Chicago and around the world. Last year, they collaborated with Mental Health Awareness, Pediatric Cancer Research, Special Needs, Environmental Protection, Domestic Abuse Awareness among others.

For the upcoming and highly anticipated 2018, Payline is advancing its industry-leading technology and products to power and provide killer payment experiences for businesses that need fresh solutions.

Another technology-driven organization, Fuzzy Math, is a user experience design, strategy and innovation firm in Chicago comprised of a small team of dedicated UX professionals. Fuzzy Math “combines top-notch technical acumen with a down-to-earth vibe,” as Greg Lanier, VP, Director of Communications, puts it.

Co-founder Mark Baldino says that giving back has been carried on by the entire team the past several years, becoming integrated in their culture.

“Since its founding, Fuzzy Math has always made room for giving back,” Baldino said.

This past year, Fuzzy Math donated to UCAN’s annual toy drive, and is a member of 1% For The Planet, a global network of businesses working together to give back to the environment. The company commits to donating 1% of its gross revenue to qualifying environmental organizations around the world.

In preparation of the new year, the company closes down its office for two weeks to reset, which is the time where they, as a group, decide on what organizations they will partner with for the 1% program.

Recently, Fuzzy Math discovered that the Brookfield Zoo was not on the approved nonprofit list for 1% of the Planet, so they did some work to move the zoo to the approved list, and Fuzzy Math is now able to donate to them and have it count as part of their contribution.

Literacy Meets Giving Back

A very unique organization in Chicago, SitStayRead, uses a specialized educational curriculum, certified reading assistance dogs and volunteers to give back to low-income students in need of reading and writing development. SitStayRead is the place where dogs help kids read, and is continuing its charitable efforts into the new year.

Back in 2003 when Sit Stay Read launched, the founders of the organization asked themselves, “How can we give back to the community using our dogs and what we are passionate about?”

SSR volunteers or “Book Buddies,” spend an hour in the classroom with students accompanied by a “Dog Team,” or certified reading assistance dogs and their caretakers to help each student become comfortable reading aloud.

“By developing a love of learning early, they will go farther in their academic careers, and in life, and will inspire others in their community,” says Victoria Luisi, SSR Communications Manager. “By building strong readers and writers, the community, as a whole, benefits.”

SitStayRead is continuing to develop its program in partnership with faculty and experts from several universities in Chicago, including DePaul University and Loyola University, to further empower students by making learning exciting, fun and safe.

Also passionate about the city’s youth and their education, Chicago HOPES For Kids empowers children experiencing homelessness by providing direct academic support in Chicago’s homeless shelters. By providing educational support for children living under these unfortunate conditions, it is CHFK’s mission to give its students the resources and encouragement needed to succeed academically, despite the challenges of homelessness.

CHFK regularly partners with local organizations to help raise awareness and funds, hosting their most recent event, Serving Up Hope, to celebrate the ongoing support of the organization. With the success of their Giving Tuesday initiative, CHFK will be able to open its programs at all shelters in Chicago, and provide them with consistent academic support.

Combining the power of technology and literacy, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program believes that everyone should have access to the opportunities made possible by having the Internet at home. Addressing the technology barrier to entry, Internet Essentials provides affordable Internet at home for eligible households, and has been doing so successfully since 2011.

The program also offers free technology classes across the Chicagoland area, and has grown to be the largest and most successful community investment initiative. The spirit of the program aligns with Comcast’s mission to improve and enrich its communities, which is holding strong over the holiday season. The initiative’s success will carry over into 2018 as the support for digital literacy training has benefited over 4.4 million people and counting.

To get involved with any of the organizations mentioned above, simply visit their websites to learn more about volunteering or donating.