Fill a Heart 4 Kids works with 18 Chicagoland sites and serves more than 1,300 homeless and foster youth each year.
"We decided as a family to call it 'Fill a Heart 4 Kids' because these kids hearts needed to be filled with love," said President and Co-Founder Annie McAveeney.
The concept is to give children memories that will last a lifetime and makes sure no child feels left behind.
"We make sure that children receive special experiences just like our children," McAveeney said. "Can you imagine going through life and not being celebrated on your birthday? Institutions can't do it on their own, they need our support and they need our help."
McAveeney said she spends more than 60 hours a week volunteering her time for the kids. She founded the organization in 2007 when she and her family began taking in homeless children, but knew there was more to be done.
"Once you acknowledge that child, and fill their hearts with love and do special things, things that we typically do for our own children, that's when they feel loved and valued and that's when they start to heal. And when they start to heal there is no stopping them," McAveeney said.
One staple of the non-profit organization is their survival backpack programs. Every Friday and Monday, they fill backpacks with common necessities like toilet paper, tooth brushes, toothpaste and food gift cards for a warm meal.
They have programs like Project Boo which gives kids a Halloween experience they otherwise would not have.
"We have a different program every month to help children feel loved and remembered," McAveeney said. "We're not fluff. It might seem like fluff [but] people come in all the time and have such a good time volunteering but that gift is like a lifeline to a child. That gift will help a child feel so loved."
McAveeney is not doing this alone, more than 6,000 people volunteer their time every year.
If you're interested in volunteering, visit Fill a Heart 4 Kids.
The next project for Fill a Heart 4 Kids are Project Warm and Project Elf!
- Project Warm collects new winter coats for kids of all ages (elementary school through high school), $5 fast food gift cards so homeless youth can get off the streets at night, warm up and eat with dignity, and $10 convenience store gift cards so youth can purchase hygiene supplies.
- For Project Elf, the organization is asking that viewers sponsor a holiday gift for a child.
- Donations can be delivered to FAH4K at 400 E. Illinois Road, Lake Forest. Or, monetary donations can be made at www.fillaheart4kids.org, which is preferred so they can buy the exact coat sizes needed and gifts that are on the children's wish lists.