One good deed goes a long way, and One Good Deed Chicago is trying to increase these deeds in the Chicago community.
The recently program was created to improve Chicago’s neighborhoods through various volunteering areas, including education, senior services, environmental clean up, domestic violence and homelessness.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel started the initiative in response to his call to residents to explore mentorship in his inaugural address.
“Working together, we can ensure that Chicago remains a world-class city for our residents today and for the generations that will follow,” Emanuel states on the website.
To really see what the program was all about, I decided to volunteer myself and do one good deed for the community. The website has over 70 opportunities from many non-profit organizations. Organizations can register and post as volunteers are needed, and volunteers can learn about each organization and its cause through the site, picking and choosing which opportunities speak to them.
One Good Deed has volunteer opportunities all over Chicagoland, including the suburbs, but my volunteering would take place downtown. I chose to cook a meal at La Casa Norte, an organization aimed at serving youth and families confronted with homelessness.
Homelessness is an ongoing issue in Chicago; according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, there were an estimated 138,575 homeless Chicagoans in 2014. La Casa Norte is only one of the many programs that help the cause, taking in and housing youth from a wide variety of circumstances.
Adam Schreiber, a youth empowerment specialist at La Casa Norte, explained the program to me.
“We work with people on a day-to-day basis and build relationships with them, helping them with their goals. We’re focused more on helping them in small, concrete ways that will last,” he said.
The intimate relationships he explained carried on with my volunteering. When I arrived, I was shown the full kitchen that I would use to cook my meal (macaroni and cheese and pigs in a blanket) and got the chance to meet and spend time with the residents one on one.
At this particular location, the program houses 16 boys between ages 16 to 21. A couple of them taught me the important use of butter in mac and cheese (I had never used butter before but trust me, it does indeed make a difference) and we chatted about our favorite foods and favorite music.
The difference was that I was getting to know these people and making connections with them, rather than volunteering behind the scenes. Talking to and befriending them made me appreciate my volunteering experience even more and made me feel like I was making a tangible impact.
Schreiber said they have about 10-15 volunteers a month that come every week or so to help cook meals or tend to the organic garden in the backyard. He said he hopes One Good Deed will inspire more volunteers to come through.
“We help a wide variety of people so there are many opportunities to help out within the organization,” he said.
Opportunities through the program expand to social media outreach, mentoring, tutoring and even directing programs, so there are avenues for all shades of volunteering.
One Good Deed Chicago is designed to make volunteering an experience that leaves a strong, lasting impression—not the half-baked, structured community service day at your school or church, but a chance to help Chicagoans in a real, lasting way.
If you’re interested in participating in a One Good Deed Chicago program, please visit their website for more information.