CHICAGO — The holiday season can be a difficult time for many families, and those challenges have been exacerbated this year as everyone struggles through the coronavirus pandemic.
The Block Club team has rounded up holiday toy drives across Chicago that are collecting gifts for families who need them this season.
This is not an exhaustive list, and it will be updated to reflect the many holiday toy drives happening across Chicago this month.
If you are involved in or know of any other holiday gift drives not included in this list, email firstname.lastname@example.org with information on the effort. Make sure to include where and when toys are being collected, any contact information and photos, if available.
And if you need ideas on where to shop for gifts to donate, Block Club’s neighborhood gift guides are here to help you while highlighting our special small businesses who could use your support this holiday season.
Play Andersonville, 5311 N. Clark St., Dec. 1–16
The toy store, 5311 N. Clark St. will have an in-store donation bin where people can buy books and donate them directly to Care for Real’s clients.
Donations also can be ordered online by selecting in-store pickup as the delivery method and gift wrapping, then entering “Care for Real” in the gift wrap occasion section.
For more information, email Kate@CareForReal.org.
Helendora Samuels Picture Framing, 1736 W. North Ave., Dec. 1–23
The owners of Helendora Samuels Picture Framing in Bucktown are collecting coats, boots and toys for children in the Austin neighborhood.
Toys will be collected through Dec. 23 at the store’s dropoff location, 1736 W. North Ave. at the Wicker Park-Bucktown border.
Co-owned by Tommy and Helendora Samuels, the framing shop opened six years ago and is one of the few Black-owned businesses in Wicker Park.
East Garfield Park
Foglia Family and Youth Center, 2859 W. Jackson Blvd.
Marillac St. Vincent Family Services, a Lincoln Park-based nonprofit fighting poverty and violence, is collecting toys for children up to 12 years old who participate in its social service programs.
Families in need will get to “shop” among the collection for toys, stocking stuffers, games and more through curbside pickup service that also provides them with a full bag of food to cook on Christmas Day.
Items can be ordered online and shipped directly to Marillac St. Vincent’s drop-off location, Foglia Family and Youth Center at 2859 W. Jackson Blvd.
Care for Real, 5339 N. Sheridan Road, Dec. 1–16
Edgewater-based nonprofit Care for Real, which usually prepares food and clothing for neighbors who need them, is collecting $20 Target gift cards for the organization’s clients.
The gift cards will allow Care for Real to continue its annual holiday toy drive while allowing people to shop for holiday toys on their own.
Donations for the gift card drive can be made online. Donors should add “holiday gift drive” in the special instructions field.
Target gift cards can also be mailed directly to the organization and addressed to Care for Real Attn: Kate Polgar, 5339 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60640.
Email Kate@CareForReal.org for more information or to arrange a gift card dropoff.
I Grow Chicago, 818 E. 63rd St., Dec. 1–18
I Grow Chicago, an Englewood-based organization tackling the root causes of trauma and violence in Chicago, is collecting toys that will be given out to 750 children across the neighborhood.
The organization is looking for toys and gift cards for children up to 17 years old.
Gifts must be mailed by Dec. 18 to I Grow Chicago, 818 E. 63rd St., Suite 818, #274. For more information, email email@example.com.
Humboldt Park Fieldhouse, 1400 N. Humboldt Park Drive, Dec. 12
The Hispanic Business Network is collecting toys from the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse, 1400 N. Humboldt Park Drive, according to the organization.
People are encouraged to drop off new, unwrapped toys 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 12. Toys will be given to families in need this holiday season.
A second dropoff location will be available at Morton College, 3801 S. Central Ave. in Cicero.
Virtue Restaurant, 1462 E. 53rd St.
Southern American food spot Virtue Restaurant is partnering with two local businesses to donate toys and books to patients at Comer Children’s Hospital.
57th Street Books is closed for in-person shopping, but donors can shop online or by phone for children’s books or gift cards for the drive.
At Toys et Cetera, which is open for in-store or online shopping, all donations will be matched with a toy of equal or greater value. Shoppers should include “Comer donation” in the notes field while ordering.
Heartland Health Centers, 3048 N. Wilton Ave., Dec. 1–14
The Heartland Health Centers is collecting toys it will give away to patients at its community clinics across Chicago.
People can shop for gifts from the health care provider’s Amazon wishlist, which will ship directly to their facility. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, gift dropoffs will not be accepted.
Hotel Julian, 168 N. Michigan Ave., Dec. 1–10
Hotel Julian, a modern hotel and steakhouse in the Loop, is a designated Toys for Tots dropoff location.
The hotel will collect toys for children up to their late teens through its Toys for Tots dropoff box in its lobby.
Suggested gifts include sporting equipment, books, backpacks, board games, handheld electronics and more.
Common Pantry, 3744 N. Damen Ave., Nov. 9–Dec. 15
North Center’s Common Pantry, a nonprofit food pantry, is collecting Target gift cards that will enable its clients to shop for their kids.
Each client will receive a gift card for all pre-registered children younger than 18 and a picture or board book for children 5 years old or younger, according to the pantry leaders.
Gift cards can be dropped off at the pantry’s North Center location, 3744 N. Damen Ave., or cash donations can be made online by specifying the money is for the “Holiday Drive” in the appropriate field.
Radius Chicago, 640 W. Cermak Road., Dec. 12
Live music venue Radius Chicago is partnering with the organizers of its Freestyle Forever concert series and the Economic Strategies Development Corporation to collect new toys and food this holiday season.
People can drop off unwrapped, new toys for children up to 16 years old 2-4 p.m. Dec. 12 at the venue, 640 W. Cermak Road, in exchange for a free box of food.
The toys will be donated to families in need, with any leftovers going to foster homes, women’s shelters and children’s hospitals, according to Radius.
Lawry’s The Prime Rib, 100 E. Ontario St., Dec. 1–20
Steakhouse Lawry’s The Prime Rib is collecting gifts for its Toys for Tots drive, located in the restaurant at 100 E. Ontario St.
The restaurant is closing for good Dec. 31, so it hopes to collect the most toys it ever has for its holiday drive.
Dropoffs are accepted 4–7 p.m. daily, but the steakhouse will accept toys outside of those orders if people call 312-787-5000 to arrange a dropoff.
Chicago French Press, 1021 S. Delano Court, Dec. 12 and 19
Coffee store and roaster Chicago French Press, 1021 S. Delano Court, is collecting new, unwrapped toys for children from its South Loop storefront.
Donors can bring the toys to Chicago French Press 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 12 or 19, according to the store.
Anyone who drops off a toy will receive 15 percent off any beverage at Chicago French Press.
Pilsen Clothes Closet, 1850 S. Throop St., Dec. 1–17
The Pilsen Food Pantry is hosting its first annual holiday toy drive this month at Pilsen Clothes Closet, 1850 S. Throop St.
All donations must be of new toys, and stuffed animals will not be accepted, according to the organization. Suggested gifts include art supplies, board games, sports equipment, building blocks, dolls and action figures.
Donations can be made 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays. Anyone with questions should contact the donations manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-230-9525.
One Northside, 4648 N. Racine Ave., 11 a.m. -1 p.m. Dec. 12
Recommended items include gift cards, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, art supplies, books, dolls and stuffed animals.
Items can be dropped off at One Northside’s offices, 4648 N. Racine Ave., or ordered online and shipped directly there before Dec. 15, according to the organization.
For One Northside’s shipping address or more information, call 773-383-7431 or email Lbdfa@hotmail.com.
Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave.
South Side nonprofit Experimental Station is collecting donations to bring boxes of books and $75 grocery cards to more than 400 children.
The gifts are part of the nonprofit’s Market Box partnership with Star Farm Chicago and other local producers, which has delivered about 5,000 bags of local produce to South Side residents since May.
This month’s “Santa Boxes” will also include journals, clay, crayons and a stress-relieving toy. According to Experimental Station, more than 400 kids have signed up so far.
Donations supporting the Santa Boxes can be made online.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.