Five Great Places to Volunteer in Des Plaines

Holiday season crucial, but local organizations also need volunteers year-round.

The holiday season is always a popular time for volunteering, but Des Plaines organizations also need help the other 11 months of the year, and many organizations will make room for everyone who wants to help.

Here is a list of five entities that always need giving volunteers.

Volunteer opportunities: The Salvation Army, 609 W. Dempster St., has an urgent need for volunteers late this week at its Christmas distribution program of gifts and holiday baskets.

“The more hands, the merrier,” Lieutenant David Martinez said.

Volunteers are needed to sort items in the Army’s warehouse, prepare the holiday baskets and hand out 600 bags of toys, 600 baskets and 600 turkeys from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday at the local headquarters, 609 W. Dempster St. Bell-ringing duties to collect donations are also available.

Martinez said volunteers to provide childcare and babysitting services are needed for children of students taking English as second language classes throughout the year, 6- 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, and 9-11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Volunteers are also needed for scouts-like youth programs from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, and for music classes.

How to volunteer: Contact Lt. David Martinez at (847) 981-9111 or email David_Martinez@USC.SalvationArmy.org.

Salvation Army hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday.


Volunteer opportunities: Mary Insprucker, Northwest regional director, said the Catholic Charities food pantry, 1717 Rand Road, has seen a huge increase during this holiday season in residents needing food.

Insprucker said the pantry is usually full-staffed with volunteers during the holidays, but always welcomes additional help. More in need are volunteers throughout the year.

“There is a lot of bagging, unpacking, sorting, registration, all sorts of duties,” Insprucker said. “We have a regular staff of volunteers, but extra hands are always welcome to make sure guests are seen in a timely fashion.”

Other volunteer opportunities are helping with Tuesday and Thursday suppers, general office work, fundraisers and special projects.

How to volunteer: Contact Denise Yonkers at (847) 376-2100 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

Pantry hours are 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Monday and Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.


Volunteer opportunities: The Self-Help Closet and Pantry, 600 E. Algonquin Road, offers long-term volunteering opportunities. Debra Walusiak, executive director, said while most positions are currently filled, they always need back-ups, always accept applications and may need drivers to help distribute food during the holiday season. It helps if volunteers own large vehicles including SUVs.


The pantry is a good place for volunteers able to make some kind of regular time commitment, Walusiak said. This facilitates scheduling, and the teams of volunteers get to know each other working together, she said. The pantry serves about 1000 clients every month.

How to volunteer: Stop by Self-Help Closet and Pantry in-person to complete an application to volunteer. The pantry is open for dropping off donations Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon, and on Saturday 9-10 a.m. Hours for clients are Tuesday 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and on Saturday 10 a.m. to noon.


Volunteer opportunities: Cooks, wait staff and drivers are needed at Bessie’s Table, 668 Graceland Ave., a program that serves about 100 to 150 people, and climbing, every Monday night from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Volunteers rotate between duties so no one gets burned out, said Cheryl Burke, co-director.

Burke said oftentimes entire families volunteer to help, and they ask that everyone working is at least eight years old.

They are especially in need of winter coats to be donated at this time, Burke said. In addition to a warm meal, clients may be fitted with coats, hats, scarves and gloves. Burke said they also try to make enough food so that clients can take something to eat with them.

How to volunteer: To volunteer or make donations contact Cheryl Burke and Becky Danegger, co-directors, at bessiesdinner_desplaines@yahoo.com.


Volunteer opportunities: The Park District, 2222 Birch St., typically needs volunteers for major events, said Gene Haring, marketing and communications manager. The first big event of 2012 will be the Spring Fun Fair on May 12. The biggest event is Fall Fest in September, in which 150 volunteers help, Haring said.

Volunteers are also needed for a 5K run in June, and it does not require special screening. Some 100 to 150 volunteers are needed to work the course and registration tables.

How to volunteer: Contact Linda Traina, superintendent of recreation at (847) 391-5700 or LTraina@DPParks.org, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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