Group connects volunteers with worthy causes

April 21, 2011 3:31:20 PM PDT
A group of would-be chefs is making a difference in the lives of women by making simple dinners for the residents of Deborah's Place, a supportive living space for homeless and mentally-challenged women. The volunteers admit they aren't the world's greatest gourmets, but they can get the job done.

"A lot of the time the day-to-day grind really wears you down and it's nice to go out and meet people who really think that you can make a difference in the world," said Candice Raub, volunteer leader.

The volunteers signed up through Chicago Cares, an organization that connect volunteers with worthy causes.

"We try to meet critical needs, so what we do is we go into an organization and we have a meeting with them and listen to what it is that they think their needs are and we determine whether or not we think there's a way we can help them out with volunteers," said Kyle Mahoney, Chicago Cares

Chicago Cares sends people to Deborah's Place several times a month as do several other organizations. All of the dinner meals and most of the lunches are prepared and served by groups of volunteers.

"It allows the staff to focus on spending time with women and doing other work rather than meal preparation and service. It's also a great opportunity to introduce the volunteers to the women and for the women to have access to other people in the community," said Audrey Thomas, Executive Director, Deborah's Place.

But the women of Deborah's Place aren't the only ones who benefit. Volunteers say giving just two hours of their time and seeing their impact firsthand is a priceless experience.

"You see the people's faces. You know you're making a difference whether they say thank you or they just kind of smile. You know that without you being here, they wouldn't be getting served their food. They wouldn't be getting the help they need," said Evelyn Martinez, volunteer.

Deborah's Place uses volunteers to perform tasks ranging from office work to landscaping to teaching yoga.

If you'd like to sign up to volunteer at Deborah's Place or if you'd like to see other volunteer activities through Chicago Cares, visit or