Uptown’s Non-profit Community
See below for a list of non-profit organizations located in and/or serving Uptown that could use your help and support.
Click here to check out our current list of volunteer opportunities in Uptown.
Apna Ghar provides critical, comprehensive, culturally competent services, and conducts outreach and advocacy across communities to end gender violence. This year you have an opportunity to support Apna Ghar’s efforts to end gender violence in the families and communities they serve. 2020 has been especially challenging for the young people they serve, so they set a goal to raise $10,000 for comprehensive children’s services. Visit apnaghar.org to learn more.
Black Ensemble Theater
Black Ensemble Theater (BE), Founded in 1976 by the phenomenal actress, producer, and playwright Jackie Taylor, has grown from a small community arts organization to a vibrant nationally and internationally renowned arts institution. A leader and innovator in the African-American and mainstream arts communities, Black Ensemble Theater is recognized as one of the most diverse theaters in the country, producing excellent musical theater. The mission of the Black Ensemble Theater is to eradicate racism and its damaging effects upon our society through the utilization of theater arts. BE is the only theater in the nation whose mission is to eradicate racism. We utilize theater and educational outreach programs to bring races together in a community which embraces similarities and fosters dialogue, understanding and acceptance. Visit blackensembletheater.org to learn more.
Care for Real
Care for Real provides food for neighbors to prepare more than 1.25 million meals each year and, in addition, offers a free clothes closet, a pet food pantry, and support services. Care for Real was established in 1970 to provide emergency help to victims of fires in “Arson Alley,” the Kenmore-Winthrop corridor between Foster and Devon. It was intended to be a short-term solution to a specific problem., however, it soon became clear that there was a need for an ongoing safety net for neighbors in need. Today Care for Real is a safety net for the entire community. Care for Real is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations to Care for Real are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Visit careforreal.org to learn more.
Chicago Tiny House
Chicago Tiny House, Inc. exists to create tiny house communities throughout Chicago that will provide homeless Chicagoans with safe and cost-effective housing and integrated supportive services. We have been helping the homeless of Chicago for over 30 years collectively, specifically working with the Uptown Tent City over the last two years. Tent City housed an estimated population of 70 people who all lived under the bridges of Wilson and Lawrence Avenues at Lake Shore Drive. Our cause does not stop with the elimination of this community. We are completely volunteer-powered. By bringing together concerned citizens, advocates, lawmakers, and donors, we can bring shelter, food, and supportive services to our most vulnerable neighbors, greatly reducing homelessness, while helping them move forward with dignity. Chicago Tiny House has partnered with, and is in touch with, both sides of the housing problem. We are knowledgeable about, and actually live alongside, our target demographic. We have created a growing database of followers, developers, donors, contractors, government agencies, and laborers. We bring a unique perspective and experience to this process, we are committed Chicagoans with small-business acumen as well as having a boots-on-the-ground relationship with our local homeless population. If you believe in what we’re doing, please join us. Visit chicagotinyhouse.org to learn more.
Chinese Mutual Aid Association
Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) is a community-based social services agency targeting the low-income immigrant and refugee community. Originally established by ethnic Chinese immigrants from Vietnam, the organization has grown to represent clients from over 40 countries, including immigrants from the Philippines, Burma, Ethiopia, and Russia. CMAA is particularly proud of its diversity, as shown by its multiethnic Board and its Executive Director being a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines. CMAA staff speak over twenty languages. CMAA offers services for the community spanning several generations. After-school youth programs provide responsible programming for kindergarten to 8th grade children. Mentoring and basketball leagues help provide productive activities for young adults. Adult education programs offer lessons in English proficiency, financial literacy, and computer skills. A wide array of social services are offered, including housing assistance, health care assistance, job skills training, and job placement. CMAA is particularly proud of its senior services, including a robust homemaker service as well as an active Golden Age Club, which offers weekly activities ranging from calligraphy to Tai Chi. Visit chinesemutualaid.org to learn more.
Christopher House is a family of schools that helps low-income families succeed in school, the workplace, and life. Their unique model combines a continuum of personalized education and immersive family support, which extend well beyond the classroom. More than 4,100 low-income individuals are enrolled in Christopher House’s family of schools – the average annual income for a family is less than $19,000. You can help make this holiday season a little brighter for these families. Each December, Christopher House provides families with gifts and food to make the holiday season special. Generous donors are matched with a Christopher House family and purchase items from a wish list provided by each family. To learn more, please visit christopherhouse.org.
CircEsteem’s mission is to unite youth across all backgrounds and identities by fostering self-esteem and mutual respect through the practice and performance of circus arts.
Founded in 2001 by retired Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey clown, Paul Miller, CircEsteem helps youth build self-esteem and create safe and diverse communities through the learning of circus arts. During the first half of 2017, CircEsteem worked with more than 750 diverse youth from 21 Chicago neighborhoods through academic enrichment, mentoring, and in-school arts enrichment programming. Youth are supported to build personal development and leadership skills such as self-esteem and teamwork through the training of circus arts utilizing social circus methodology. For the past 16 years, CircEsteem has provided its unique social circus programming throughout the City of Chicago to thousands of youth. To learn more, please visit circesteem.org.
Cornerstone Community Outreach
Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO), a Illinois not-for-profit organization, was founded in 1989 to raise the quality of life for low-income residents in the Uptown area of Chicago. Over the last thirty years, CCO’s programs have expanded to serve nearly 500 men, women, and children daily. With Cornerstone’s help these families and individuals can begin to build a new life, one step at a time. Cornerstone Community Outreach has a long standing commitment to providing shelter and finding homes for families and individuals who are at the greatest risk of being excluded from necessary services. Be a part of the good things that are happening at Cornerstone Community Outreach and consider making a financial donation that will provide nutritious meals, safe shelter, and supportive services for the families and individuals sheltered with them. Visit ccolife.org to learn more.
Haitian American Museum of Chicago
Founded in 2012, The Haitian American Museum of Chicago (HAMOC) is the realization of a dream by its co-founder, Elsie Hernandez, to create an institution that would hold programs and exhibits that will contribute to the rich multicultural tapestry that is Chicago. Since 2012 the museum has hosted a wide array of programs and exhibits showcasing Haiti’s rich culture and art as well as its complex history. You are invited to enjoy our changing exhibits, attend virtual and in-person programs, and safely visit to the museum. Visit hamoc.org to learn more.
Heartland Health Centers
Heartland Health Centers is a federally qualified health center with 17 locations serving Chicago’s north side and nearby suburbs. In 2018, they provided over 26,000 patients with a medical home where they offer affordable and comprehensive primary care, oral health care, and mental health care services. As a medical home, HHC ensures comprehensive, affordable, quality, safe, and coordinated health care that is culturally competent and orientated to addressing all the health care needs of each patient. Keep Heartland Health Centers responsive and resilient by donating at heartlandhealthcenters.org.
Japanese American Service Committee
The Japanese American Service Committee, now JASC, was organized in 1946 as the Chicago Resettlers Committee, formed to literally “re-settle” Japanese Americans coming to Chicago after World War II. The Resettlers Committee activities included referring people to professional services such as banks, attorneys, doctors and real estate agents; supplying them with practical information about retailers and restaurants; helping locate appropriate Buddhist or Christian churches; and coordinating recreational activities and making personal contacts. Today, JASC engages people of all ages to experience Japanese American history and culture and to improve their well-being through innovative, high quality programs and services tailored to the multicultural community. Visit jasc-chicago.org to learn more.
One of Chicago’s largest and longest-operating food pantries, Lakeview Pantry’s mission is to eliminate hunger and poverty in our community by providing food to fill the basic need of hungry people; empowering people to gain independence through innovative social service programs; and raising awareness of hunger and poverty and working towards solutions to eliminate them. Their vision is to be a reliable and innovative hunger-relief resource in the community, and to be a model of dignified, effective, and collaborative service delivery. Their ultimate goal is a hunger-free Chicago. With a gift to their Turkey Fund, Lakeview Pantry will help purchase and distribute more than 5,000 turkeys and holiday meats through the end of the year. Visit lakeviewpantry.org to learn more.
Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club
The Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club has been an anchor of hope, fun and stability in the lives of Chicago’s Uptown Community youth since 1958 with the support of the Robert R. McCormick Charitable Trust, Senator W. Russell Arrington, W. Clement Stone and area businesses and residents. In 2013, it was renamed the Pedersen-McCormick Club in honor of one of its longtime supporters, Peer Pedersen. The Club today serves 1,000 members annually and 250 members age 6-18 daily. When you make a gift to Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, you are directly supporting children in our community during this uncertain time. With your help, we are as committed as ever to enabling all of our remarkable young people to reach their full potential. Visit bgcc.org/pedersen-mccormick-club to learn more.
The People’s Music School
The People’s Music School began as a small storefront in 1976, and has since expanded to cultivate hundreds of young, growing minds throughout Chicago. What started out as a vision has now grown into a reality as they impact students and their families in the Uptown, Albany Park, Back of the Yards, and Greater Grand Crossing neighborhoods. They provide a safe and nurturing environment so that each child can reach their highest potential and grow musically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually through the benefits of music education, regardless of economic barriers. Led by professionally-trained faculty, students receive intensive music education for on average nine hours each week in our four core areas of music instruction: music theory, group instruction, individual instruction, and performance ensembles. They are 100% free, 100% underserved, over 90% of color with a 100% high school graduation and college attendance rate. Learn more about how they transform and empower lives through music education and provide your support at peoplesmusicschool.org.
PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre
PlayMakers Laboratory (PML) is an ensemble of teaching artists who create an experimental learning environment in which students share their personal voices and celebrate the power of their imaginations. PML accomplishes this through creative writing workshops and in-school performances of students stories. PML also engages the broader community in support of the visions of young people through public performances of their work. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, PlayMakers Laboratory relies on the generous support of many individuals, foundations, corporations, and government entities. To become a supporter visit playmakerslab.org.
In 1979, three women in the Uptown neighborhood saw the plight of women who were homeless. They were often cold and seeking shelter, hungry, highly vulnerable, and alone. Sarah’s Circle was started with compassion and spirit of service, and our agency continues to be a safe, welcoming place for women experiencing homelessness. With our resources and services, women are able to access shelter, food, showers, community, and more. Sarah’s Circle is working to meet this challenge with a new facility, Sarah’s on Sheridan. In this new location, Sarah’s Circle provides 38 units of Permanent Supportive Housing, more program space and an Interim Housing Program. Sarah’s Circle is dedicated to providing permanent housing solutions for women in Chicago. The work we do 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, could not happen without the steadfast support of our donors and volunteers. Our supporters play a key role in providing the meals, community structure, and life necessities that make Sarah’s Circle a home for hundreds of women throughout the year. It is with your help that we will continue to end homelessness for women in Chicago. Visit sarahs-circle.org to learn more.
South-East Asia Center
The South-East Asia Center (SEAC) is a community-based, educational and social service organization building bridges of understanding and cooperation between peoples of Old and New World cultures. SEAC serves some of the most culturally diverse immigrant neighborhoods in the United States, with over one hundred different languages spoken by residents within its borders. SEAC’s Uptown-Edgewater home base is also one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago, with some forty-three percent of Uptown children and twenty-six percent of Edgewater children living under the poverty line. Many of the immigrants and refugees served at SEAC come from rural societies where education and literacy are scarce commodities. SEAC’s more than 30 staff and over 100 volunteers provide cultural, emotional, and educational aid and social services to over 8,000 of the needy each year. Visit se-asiacenter.org to learn more.
TimeLine Theatre is working hard to live up to its reputation of mission-focused artistry, business acumen, and putting people first. Your support allows them to take steps to not only survive the times ahead, but also to thrive. Guided by values of collaboration and fiscal responsibility, TimeLine Theatre has launched a Today, Tomorrow, Together fundraising effort to meet the challenges caused by COVID-19. It is a celebration of shared perseverance through this pandemic, while honoring a future beyond it. The effort supports staff and artists, and ensures that they are able to work toward the time when we will gather for live theatre again. Visit timelinetheatre.com to learn more.
Vietnamese Association of Illinois
Founded in 1976, the Vietnamese Association of Illinois (VAI) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that focuses on serving diverse communities of all ethnicities and religions, fostering unity, and promoting Vietnamese American identity. Since its founding, VAI has served thousands of Vietnamese Americans and other ethnic communities through facilitating resettlement and citizenship, building community, seeking employment, addressing healthcare issues, raising political awareness, providing educational opportunities, addressing multigenerational issues for seniors and youth, establishing and expanding businesses, and strengthening cultural heritage. Your donation allows VAI to significantly improve the lives of those in our Chicagoland community and your support goes towards empowering low-income, limited-English proficient immigrants and refugees through immigration and literacy programs, youth through after-school and summer programs, and elderly through home-care services. Visit hnvi.org to learn more.
Voice of the People
Voice of the People in Uptown began in 1968 as families raised their voices in opposition to an urban renewal plan that would have leveled several blocks in Uptown and displacing 500 families. The families united to form an organization and named it Voice of the People. Voice stopped some of the displacement, found new homes for 250 of the 500 families displaced and, in time, acquired a number of the saved buildings. Voice’s mission, which grew out of this history, was and is: 1) To work with families to promote and provide quality, affordable housing in Uptown and the surrounding area, and to maintain racial, ethnic and economic diversity; and 2) To empower Voice residents and neighbors by providing opportunities to participate in housing advocacy, real estate development, property management and community issues. Visit vophousing.com to learn more.