Check out this year’s Forest Park Community Guide!

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This season of giving, take a break from browsing Amazon.com and remember the local nonprofits that work daily to make life better. If you donate to these few places on #GivingTuesday, every dollar is matched by Facebook and PayPal. Other organizations are stepping up and helping out too. Giving Tuesday runs through the end of December.

Global Citizen USA

Founded this year by resident Beti Atilano, Global Citizen USA is a nonprofit that provides long-term survival and disaster relief services to devastated areas. Atilano’s work has taken volunteers to Puerto Rico, Florida and other locales. Now, Global Citizen aims to expand its work to Colombia, where the nonprofit plans to help Venezuelan refugees.

“I chose to help Venezuela because the president has been very harsh on his people. People are starving to death, and people are leaving by the thousands and they’re walking from one country to the other; their shoes have worn out,” Atilano said. 

This holiday season, she hopes to raise $20,000, which she will spend primarily for transportation and logistics costs for moving crates of supplies to needy areas. Containers hold shoes, clothes, medical supplies, and food — “anything you need to survive.” Often the value of the items in the crates supersedes the cost of shipping them, she said. Visit https://bit.ly/2Er7LLU to donate.

 Empowering Gardens

This nonprofit, which provides people with disabilities meaningful, long-term employment, is participating in Giving Tuesday for the third year, with the Coleman Foundation agreeing to match donations up to $10,000. The Chicago-based Coleman Foundation is a nonprofit that focuses on cancer care, developmental disabilities and entrepreneurship education. 

“For people with disabilities, at a certain age they lose a lot of benefits,” said Ana Solares, co-founder. “They graduate from high school, become adults, and by the age of 22 most of them have nothing to do anymore. It’s very difficult to find a job in this time for anybody but even more difficult for people with disabilities. They need to be active; they need to gain independence and feel like they can learn like everybody else.”

Solares said donations will be used to pay employees, insurance, rent and other operating costs. During the summer, Empowering Gardens is located at an outdoor garden center; in the winter, the nonprofit relies on friends who let them use space for a nominal fee. 

This winter, Art Sundry, owner of caffé DeLuca, is allowing the traveling garden center to use a space he owns at 7415 Madison St. Visit empoweringgardensinc.org to donate.

Housing Forward

Janet Gow, director of development and communication, said the organization aims to raise approximately $1 million in private donations this year. 

“What Housing Forward is trying to do is make sure everyone focuses on not just crisis resolution homelessness, which people see in shelter places, but making sure there’s a community solution to end homelessness,” Gow said. “That comes in the form of not just financial support, but being aware of the issues and making sure affordable housing is at the forefront of government decisions.” 

Private donations often allow Housing Forward to be more flexible in its giving, like funding emergency assistance, when people need help with rent, utilities, transportation costs and more. “Sometimes our public funding can be more restrictive in their eligibility requirements,” Gow said. Visit https://bit.ly/2UDhkfA to give.

Opportunity Knocks 

The nonprofit that serves young people with development disabilities will be participating in Giving Tuesday this year. 

“It helps us raise money to help out the Forest Park, River Forest and Oak Park communities,” said Jarvis Hart, a volunteer and social media advisor at Opportunity Knocks. “I’ve had autism since I was a little kid; I’m an advocate for those with disabilities and helping others focus on the future. You can do anything you want. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and don’t be scared.” 

Opportunity Knocks raises funds and has fun doing it through its annual Chili Cook Off, Night of Opportunity Gala, OK Classic Softball Tournament, and more. The group is also known for its signature Knock Out Pickles, which they sell in jars to local restaurants. Chicago’s Best Host Elliott Bambrough is involved with the organization. Visit opportunityknocksnow.org to donate.

Historical Society of Forest Park 

Alexis Ellers, director of the historical society, said the group this year is focusing on raising money through small sponsorships. Donations will help pay the group’s tour guide for its bicycle tour, the individual who runs the to-be-determined “hands-on” quilting event the historical society will hold in January, transcriptions of local veterans’ history, and more. 

“We’re preserving Forest Park history. We have a lot of good mementos now, we’re doing a lot of great events, and the support helps us keep going with it,” she said. Visit forestparkhistory.org to donate.

 Bedrock Movement

Although the Bedrock Movement is not a registered nonprofit yet — “an attorney is working on the paperwork for us, and we hope to have that ready in probably February,” said founder John Netherly — the organization is accepting donated sleeping bags, comforters, tents and more, which will be distributed to those who prefer to live on the street. Netherly said he collects items all year, saves them in a storage unit and waits for winter.

“When it’s starting to get cold I go to the storage space. The wintertime is so hard, they stay outside, they get frostbite and they have to be amputated. It’s the worst epidemic in Cook County,” he said.

Call 773-567-5110 for information on how to donate.