Credit: Jean Lakosnyk/Unsplash

Around this time of the year you’ll begin to hear the phrase “the giving season.” It’s the moment when donation-dependent organizations ramp up their campaigns in the hopes of being included in the gifting air that comes in on a wind of mailers, calls, and fundraisers. For the Nonprofit Issue, we thought it would be valuable to talk about nonprofits, not-for-profits, community groups, and mutual aid organizations that Reader staff members donate their money, time, or goods to on a regular basis. These are the organizations that fill in the gaps. They foster community and meet people’s needs where existing institutions and governments don’t. The Reader Institute for Community Journalism is both proud to be a 501(c)(3) enterprise and proud to increase awareness of our fellow nonprofit organizations. 

Youth | Health | Legal | Environment | Animals | RICJ


Credit: Amber Huff

Assata’s Daughters

A queer Black woman-led and youth-focused organization that organizes young Black people in Chicago by providing them with political education, leadership development, and revolutionary services. I’ve donated to them for several years. —Kerry Cardoza

several children work on a raised garden bed, one child in the foreground is wearing a black tshirt with the name Assata in lettering in white on the back of the shirt along with the number 79 in white lettering
At Assata’s Daughters’ community garden, youth grow food for Washington Park neighbors. Credit: Courtesy of Assata's Daughters

Chicago Childcare Collective

I have organized with Chicago Childcare Collective (ChiChiCo) for over two years. We’re a group of volunteers who support the participation of caregivers in racial and economic justice work. The collective matches volunteers with community organizations across the city to have fun with kids while their caregivers participate in and lead organizing efforts around the city. ChiChiCo is grounded in the belief that play has an important role in radical politics. —Savannah Hugueley

Chi-Nations Youth Council

Chi-Nations Youth Council seeks to connect Indigenous people across the Chicago area for cultural enrichment, social action, and well being. I occasionally volunteer and show up to their events. —Charli Renken

ETHS Foundation

I donate to the ETHS Foundation. Since 2008, the Evanston Township High School Foundation has raised over $12 million for capital improvement projects that lead to an equitable learning experience for all students. —Chasity Cooper

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network)

This LGBTQ+ youth advocacy organization focuses on ending discrimination and bullying through education. —Amy Matheny

at a rally camera is facing backs of participants, center of photo features a child holding up a sign that reads Defend and Protect Queer Kids
Credit: Denin Lawley/Unsplash


I donate to and am a past president of the board for the local nonprofit SitStayRead. Their mission is to advance literacy skills for young students through proven curriculums, trained volunteers, and Certified Reading Assistance Dogs. —Ann Scholhamer

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Credit: Amber Huff

American Indian Health Service of Chicago

American Indian Health Service of Chicago provides health care and cultural well-being services to the Chicago area Indigenous community and other underserved populations. I frequently attend their events, especially their sewing workshops. —Charli Renken

Black People Outside

Black People Outside is a community organization that curates and hosts accessible and attainable outdoor activities. It was initially launched as a TikTok channel in 2020. Founders Chevy Linear and Kameron Stanton have since hosted a number of hikes, camping, and adventure experiences that show off Chicago’s amazing nature scene. 
—Chasity Cooper

Chicago Abortion Fund

I have volunteered with Chicago Abortion Fund, an organization that seeks to advance reproductive autonomy and justice. They help people seeking abortions with travel, lodging, and other needs. —Savannah Hugueley

Chicago Recovery Alliance

This harm reduction organization offers free and confidential drug testing, safe sex supplies, safer drug use supplies, and more. I’ve dropped in their volunteer hours on and off since 2019. —Katie Prout

Coffee, Hip-Hop, and Mental Health

Not only is this an active coffee shop in Lakeview, but they also offer free therapy  resources for people who are looking to improve their mental health and wellness. A safe space indeed. —Chasity Cooper

Healthy Hood Chicago

From exercise classes to social events, Healthy Hood Chicago provides affordable programming and resources that elevate the mind, body, and conscience for underserved communities. —Chasity Cooper

Midwest Access Coalition

This nonprofit helps people seeking abortions with travel, food, lodging, and other needs. Illinois is one of only a few midwestern states that protects the right to an abortion, which has caused a huge spike in the number of people coming here for care. Donations to abortion funds have declined since the fall of Roe—other crises have preoccupied those of us who might care—so do what I’ve done and schedule a recurring monthly gift, however modest, that you can’t forget to make. —Philip Montoro

Season of Concern

For the past several decades, Season of Concern has been there for theater artists facing health-related financial difficulties. They started in the darkest days of the AIDS crisis and have continued to meet the emergency financial needs of the people who light up Chicago theater onstage and off. —Kerry Reid

YouTube video
Season of Concern released the song “Chicago Kind” in July 2023 to bring awareness to the organization.

The Night Ministry

The Night Ministry provides outreach services, accessible medical care, housing intake, and safer drug use supplies—all for free from a van roaming throughout Chicago. Some of their workers have previously provided me with valued information for my reporting.
—Katie Prout

Queer Soccer Club Chi

I have played and attended events with Queer Soccer Club Chi all summer. They are a free, inclusive soccer group that creates a safe place for queer, trans, and gender nonconforming people across the city to play pickup soccer and find community. (And it was founded by one of my coworkers, Savannah.) —Taryn Allen

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Credit: Amber Huff

ACLU of Illinois

My father was general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois for more than 30 years. I remain a donor. The ACLU has defended and preserved the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. —Diane Pascal

Chicago Community Jail Support

Illinois has eliminated cash bail, so nonprofits no longer have to rescue people from life-wrecking pretrial imprisonment. But folks getting out of jail still need help, whether it’s access to a phone, a ride home, or even a place to stay. To help break the carceral state’s cycle of violence, I make a small monthly donation to this mutual aid group. —Philip Montoro

Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange

CCRx takes excess materials from people & companies (fabric, computer equipment, etc.) and redistributes to teachers, community organizations, and nonprofits. I try to introduce all the teachers in my life to them and bring people to their Auburn Gresham warehouse.
—Salem Collo-Julin

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

This nonprofit promotes the rights of immigrants and refugees by helping them access benefits, education, and other resources. Lately ICIRR has been busy advocating for asylum seekers, and growing backlash against their presence in Chicago will increase our need for humane, practical voices in the public square. I’ve donated to ICIRR, and I will again.
—Philip Montoro

Lambda Legal

I donate to Lambda Legal Chicago because the organization provides legal services and advocacy to the Chicago’s LGBTQ+ communities. —Amy Matheny

Midwest Immigration Bond Fund

A coalition formed in 2020 that pays immigration bonds in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. —Shawn Mulcahy

Palestine Legal

In a recent n+1 editorial, Palestine Legal staff attorney Dylan Saba wrote about the rise of suppression—which includes blacklists, doxxing, and harassment—facing Americans advocating for Palestinian rights. This organization provides legal advice, litigation support, and advocacy for people expressing their first amendment rights in solidarity with Palestinians. —Leor Galil

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Credit: Amber Huff

The Wetlands Initiative

The Wetlands Initiative designs, restores, and creates wetlands and prairies in Illinois, preserving wild spaces and improving water quality. I am a volunteer and a donor. —Diane Pascal

Urban Growers Collective

For a few summers I volunteered at City Farm Chicago, an urban farm formerly located on Division that was created to help support the not-for-profit Resource Center. It grew a variety of fruits and vegetables, and even housed chickens at one point, but its main goal was educating groups of kids and adults about sustainable agriculture. The experience changed my relationship to the city in that I began to think of the way space is so often underused and so much of it could be used for the betterment of others with the right tools and the right resources, including knowledgeable people. An organization like Urban Growers Collective continues with that mission of using the tools and the wisdom of the community to fill in those gaps. —Sheba White

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Credit: Amber Huff

Felines & Canines

Four of my cats have come from this shelter, but I also support them because they do a great job of caring for cats and dogs with special needs—including groundbreaking work with FIV+ cats—and bringing in animals from high-kill areas in Alabama to place them in Chicago. —Kerry Reid

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For 52 years, the Chicago Reader has stood as a cornerstone for arts, culture, and investigative journalism. Now as a nonprofit, the Reader operates under the auspices of RICJ: the Reader Institute for Community Journalism. RICJ relies on our community membership program, allowing you to join for a minimum of $5 a month or $60 annually. Your support helps uphold our dedication to independent and diverse storytelling. —Mike Thompson

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Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.