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‘Tis the season for giving, right? Each year as the holidays approach, many of us look for ways to help those less fortunate. Honestly, we should always be seeking out these opportunities, but this time of year is when the desire to give most often bubbles up to the surface. It makes sense — given the unavoidable commercial aspect of the holidays, we become starkly aware (or should, at least) of the fact that there are many in our community who are struggling just to stay afloat, for whom purchasing gifts or preparing an elaborate meal is out of reach. Throw in a pandemic, and now there are not only more people living that reality, but also so many community organizations hurting as their fundraising and revenue generating events have been sidelined.


So, it’s no surprise that we received this question from a reader:

Are you planning to do an article on the best places to donate time, money and goods this season?

We thought that was a solid idea, and we gathered some resources for you. Of course this is not an exhaustive list. If one of these doesn’t speak to you, do a little more digging on your own to find a way to improve the world around you.

For Helping with Basic Needs

Bucket Brigade: Since the beginning of the pandemic they have been providing two weeks worth of food and critical resources to households in C-U. You can donate directly to them, or sign up to volunteer. 

Cunningham Township Angel Fund: Cunningham Township interacts with those most in need in Urbana. By donating to the Angel Fund, you are helping them provide food assistance through the Bucket Brigade and Red Herring. You are providing for motel stays for individuals who need short-term housing or a place for shelter residents to quarantine. 

Feeding Our Kids: For several years, this has been a backpack program where sacks of easy-to-prepare items were sent home with students in area schools, so they had some extra food for the weekend. With kids out of school, they are delivering food to doorsteps once a week. You can sign up to make deliveries, or contribute in other ways, on their website.

Jubilee Cafe and Daily Bread Soup Kitchen: Each of these offer free, hot, to-go meals to anyone who needs them. Daily Bread serves lunch seven days a week; Jubilee Cafe operates out of Community United Church of Christ on Monday evenings. Follow the links to donate.

Daily Bread is also doing a knapsack giveaway, and they are asking for toiletries and cold weather accessories. You can find the full list and donating instructions here.

Unit 4 Warm-a-Kid: Every year Unit 4 distributes new coats, hats, and gloves for students who need them. You can support the initiative by donating money, or winter gear. 

Broader Community Assistance and Improvement

Champaign County Humane Society and Hospice Hearts: Supporting the organizations that save and rehabilitate the furry creatures that provide so much love and joy to us is important. CCHS and Hospice Hearts have placed animals in thousands of homes over the years, so if you can purchase donate something off their wish lists (CCHS; Hospice Hearts) or donate money or resources, consider doing so. You can visit their websites for more detailed donation needs and information. 

Community Foundation of East Central Illinois: This non-profit is dedicated to establishing endowments for the long-term benefit of East Central Illinois. You can donate any amount once, or set up a recurring donation. 

Family Service Resource Center: This is a difficult time for seniors. Family Service Resource Center has volunteering opportunities for assisting seniors in the community. You can also donate to them here.

Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County/Restore: Whether you donate gently used items or money, you will be helping Champaign County families establish permanent housing.   

Idea Store: You can donate all sorts of random stuff, but there are preferred and prohibited items. You must make an appointment to donate, which you can do on the store’s website. They also take monetary donations, something that would surely be helpful during these strained times.

The Land Connection: The Land Connection works with farmers to help them build more sustainable farming practices. It also works to connect our food systems--farmers to consumers, for example. The organization oversees the Downtown Champaign Tuesday Farmers Market, and has recently taken over the Saturday market in Lincoln Square Mall. You can donate your time or money

Libraries: The Champaign Public and Urbana Free Libraries have been lifesavers to many these last few months. In addition to the obvious, both libraries also offer all sorts of other services, including tech assistance and borrowing, activities for kids, and job resources. 

Champaign and Urbana Park Districts/Allerton/Champaign County Forest Preserves: Outdoor spaces have become so important this year, and while we are still able to utilize these natural areas, they are not able to have a lot of the events and programming they normally would throughout the year. 

Planned Parenthood: With the new makeup of the Supreme Court, protecting organizations such as Planned Parenthood is imperative. If women’s health and bodily autonomy is important to you, this is a good place to donate your dollars.  

First Followers and HV Neighborhood Transformation: These organizations are deeply involved in the communities most affected by poverty, gun violence, and incarceration. Your donations support their work for justice and peace. Additionally, HVNT is raising money to provide 20 families with holiday support. 

Seasonal Giving

Courage Connection wish list: Browse their Amazon wish list and purchase some items that are most needed to support the women at Courage Connection. Items range from work attire, to toiletries, to restaurant gift cards and more.

Developmental Services Center wish list: Folks in the DSC Residential Program have provided holiday wishes. One of the items is a wrestling belt, which is wonderful. 

Snow Angels - Community Volunteer Snow Removal Program: Volunteers commit to clearing a section of sidewalk within 48 hours after a snowfall greater than two inches. You can sign up as an individual or as a group.  

Toys for Tots: This is an annual program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. This year it’s super easy. Purchase a toy online from the designated list, and it will be shipped directly to the distribution site.