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The 2023 holiday season is underway! Lights and decorations are popping up week after week, throughout the city, as are social events and gatherings for the people and families in Chicago

Even though the holidays can feel magical in the Second City, it’s important to remember that this season also ushers in freezing cold and longer nights. A large portion of Chicago’s population struggles throughout the winter months to get the essential items they need to stay warm and fed. The city of Chicago estimates that over 6,100 of its residents are and will be unhoused in 2023, residing either in homeless shelters or on the streets. In addition, over 17% of residents live below the poverty line, which accounts for over 450,000 people throughout Chicago.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways to give to those in need in Chicago this winter. Donating food, winter clothes, toys, and even your time are a few ways people can help alleviate the stress and discomfort of those struggling this year. 

Since 2015, SocialWorks has maintained its Warmest Winter initiative, which aims to raise awareness and provide relief for those suffering through hardships in Chicago’s colder months. While Warmest Winter is a year-long program, it ramps up considerably as we head into the holiday season. Warmest Winter gets bigger and bigger each year, expanding its reach and providing a greater amount of goods and services for those in need. 

The Warmest Winter clothing drive expands across Chicagoland for the months leading up to December, with schools, businesses, venues, and more featuring massive SocialWorks donation boxes for people to donate their warm clothes, including winter coats, hats, scarves, sweaters, gloves, and more. This clothing drive kicked off on October 9th, and will continue until December 3rd, and leads into the biggest SocialWorks event of the year, A Night At The Museum. 

A Night At The Museum takes place on December 21, 2023. It is a family-friendly holiday event, inviting guests to explore The Museum of Science and Industry after hours while taking in performances by entertainers and other activities. More importantly, this event is the culmination of Warmest Winter, as it serves as a donation hub to serve Chicago’s in-need population. Last year, our generous guests donated over 8,000 warming items, including clothes, outerwear, and other essentials, and we know we will exceed that number in 2023 with more participating businesses and guests than ever before. 

SocialWorks will always be focused on doing as much we can for the community of Chicago, which means helping to expand awareness and reach for any programs with our shared goals. 

With that, please take a look at the SocialWorks non-definitive list of ways to give back in Chicago this holiday season. 

A Night at the Museum

December 21, 2023

Museum of Science and Industry

SocialWorks’ 5th annual “A Night at the Museum” event takes place at MSI on Dec. 21, which serves as a holiday fundraiser and donation hub for SocialWorks’ Warmest Winter clothing drive, benefitting Chicagoans experiencing homelessness. This year’s A Night at the Museum is generously sponsored by The Horowitz Family Charitable Fund and Aetna Better Health of IL, among others.

At “A Night at the Museum,” guests can experience the magic of MSI’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit, which features a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers —including a tree from SocialWorks—each representing the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. They can also engage with 50+ event-only vendors, activations and performers, discover unique opportunities to connect with Chance, and learn about what SocialWorks is planning for 2024.

One Warm Coat

Winter clothing drive

National clothing drive to provide free coats to adults and children. Multiple drop-off locations throughout Chicagoland this winter. Other One Warm Coat initiatives include disaster relief and sustainability.

Pilsen Food Pantry

Seeking both donations and volunteers this season!

The Pilsen Food Pantry has been serving more clients over the past year, many of them newly arrived asylum seekers, founders said. The group also supports migrants staying at the Near West Side (12th) District police station by providing food as well as essentials like bedding and clothes.

Migrant Response team

Seeking both donations and volunteers this season!

As more migrants are sleeping in police stations, the Chicago Police Station Response Team has been working around the city to make sure people’s needs are being met. The group is accepting donations to help volunteers pay for meals, bedding, blankets, and other everyday needs. Donations are evenly distributed to every police district.

Greater Chicago Food Depository

Volunteers and Donations Need!

Thousands of families with children are struggling to afford putting food on the table this Thanksgiving season. Through volunteering or donating, you can make a difference for Chicago families this year.