By Brian Marchetti
As the holiday season approaches, many of us wish to extend our good fortune to those in need. Several amazing local organizations offer us the chance to impact the lives of others in profound ways.
During the 2014 holiday season, Greg Owen-Boger and friends decided to help the local homeless by putting together care packages. They soon discovered the problem was far greater than they anticipated.
“We decided to create a philanthropic arm for our company, Turpin Communications,” Owen-Boger said. “Turpin Cares started small, and we grew by partnering with other organizations over the years.”
As of this fall, Turpin Cares has distributed over 150,000 items since the pandemic to pantries and those in need and has helped over 5,000 households.
“You never know who in the community needs help,” Owen-Boger said. “We don’t ask any questions of the people we serve.”
Turpin Cares is hosting a Christmas drive in partnership with Starbucks at 103rd and Longwood for the sixth year. The Starbucks location’s counter will host gift tags with requests for items written on the back. People can choose a tag, purchase the requested items and return the items there. “We’ve been doing this since 2018,” Owen-Boer said, “and it’s wildly successful.” This year’s drive will start Dec. 1 and run through Christmas Eve.
For other ways to assist Turpin Cares, go to turpincares.org. Financial donations have the most significant impact, though there are many ways to help.
Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry
When a south side manufacturing company shut down, leaving many local area residents without a paycheck, Lillian Henning placed a barrel in Maple Park United Methodist Church. She hoped the community might rally and donate food to those in need. Forty years later, that single act of kindness has grown into one of the largest food pantries in the Chicagoland area.
The Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry, now under the executive direction of Karen Overstreet, the daughter of Henning, feeds people all over Chicago, the western suburbs, Indiana and Michigan.
“We are feeding more people now than we ever have in our history,” Overstreet said. “There’s a great need to help seniors, the disabled, veterans and working poor.”
As Thanksgiving approaches, the pantry finds itself in dire need of donations and turkeys.
“We’re planning to feed 500 to 600 people with Thanksgiving meals, complete with all the trimmings. We’re asking our donors and community to please donate to us monetarily,” Overstreet said.
To help ensure that as many people as possible get a turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, go to maplemorganparkfoodpantry.org.
19th Ward Mutual Aid
As the crisis at the U.S. southern border continues, and more migrants find their way to Chicago, Matt O’Shea and the 19th Ward Office have stepped in to help.
The 19th Ward Mutual Aid program provides essential services for the migrants temporarily housed at the 22nd Police District. Volunteers, in conjunction with other philanthropic organizations, such as the above-mentioned Turpin Cares, distribute toiletries, meals and medical care.
For more information on how to volunteer, donate items, or prepare meals for the migrants, go to 19aid.com.
Christmas Without Cancer
Christmas Without Cancer, founded in 2003 by oncology nurse, Gerri Neylon, provides a wide range of services to cancer patients and their families.
“We step in and offer financial assistance with mortgages, rent, car payments,” Renee Copeland, vice president, said. “We also help elderly patients get to their appointments, pick up their groceries and medications.”
Focusing their mission on a thirty-mile radius centered on Oak Lawn, Christmas Without Cancer has assisted 376 families so far this year. They expect to break five hundred by the end of 2023, which is the most in the organization’s history.
“We help families every single day, not just at Christmas,” Copeland said. “It’s sad and rewarding at the same time that we’re able to help that many people.
In order to help, please go to christmaswithoutcancer.org or email them at email@example.com. Donations in the form of gift cards for Aldi, Jewel, Mariano’s, or anything that might offset the cost of everyday living expenses is appreciated.