ML - Michigan Avenue

2013 - Issue 8 - December

Michigan Avenue - Niche Media - Michigan Avenue magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine centered around Chicago’s finest people, events, fashion, health & beauty, fine dining & more!

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Page 65 of 147

SPIRIT OF GENEROSITY "Statistics show that healthy cities are cities that have active and engaged volunteer cores." —LESLIE BLUHM continued from page 62 critical needs in the community. All of our programs are group service opportunities: We provide a team leader and write the curriculum, and for the most part the programs take place on evenings and weekends so that people who are working still have the opportunity to volunteer. Our programs are in every community across the city; you read a lot about what's going on in Englewood, but you can't understand it until you've been to Englewood; you read a lot about Chicago Public Schools, but how can you understand it if you've never been in a Chicago Public School? Our goal is to get people into these communities and also engage local community members so we have lots of people working together from different areas, and that breaks down a lot of barriers; people realize that we all have the same dreams and goals for this city and that we're all in it together. Statistics show that healthy cities are cities that have active and engaged volunteer cores. And that is something we work to do here. Volunteers can sign up on our website and access our monthly project calendar. We work with about 350 service organizations in the city, and there are roughly 250 group service opportunities each month, each led by a Chicago Cares team leader. You can come out once, once a week, once a month—as often as your schedule allows. Projects range from working with children or seniors to serving meals to the hungry. We're very nimble, so we've got tentacles in every community across the city. We usually work in conjunction with an existing social service agency while we write the curriculum—we want to make sure we're meeting their needs. When CPS was on strike, we didn't want to cross a picket line, but we created projects on an emergency basis to engage kids who had no place to go and whose parents were going to work. That's an example of how we can mobilize quickly to 64 ABOVE: Chicago Cares volunteers paint a mural at Ray Graham Training Center High School. RIGHT: Cofounder Leslie Bluhm with Chelsea Clinton and Dana Rice (of Grosvenor Capital Management). address a need. We also look at the issues volunteers are interested in, so when we see a wait list for a particular program, we say, "Okay, let's get more programs in this area because people enjoy doing it." And sometimes the community members will take over the projects, saying, "You started this and now we're going to take it on." So I think that it's showing people the power of service and that each individual can in fact make a difference. The Bigger Picture One interesting thing about Chicago Cares is that we work a lot with corporations in addition to individuals; we have an enormous corporate volunteer program that has continued to grow since we started it. Corporations increasingly recognize that service is critical to the bottom line—it's good for team building and retention. Often millennials want to work for a company that provides them with volunteer opportunities and has an impact in the city. So companies are increasingly recognizing that service is not just something nice to do, it's something that helps their business model and makes a continued on page 66 MICHIGANAVEMAG.COM 062-067_MA_SP_Spirit_Winter2014.indd 64 11/20/13 2:21 PM

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