This is the time of year when many of us reflect with gratitude on what we have, and look to help those who have less. For Amy Kadens (pictured, above), founder of Chicago charity Share Our Spare, taking care of the less fortunate is a year-round endeavor. Her four-year-old non-profit provides new or gently used baby and children's items like diapers, toys and clothing to low-income or homeless families. Where does she get these donations? From awesome people like you! Read on about how this organization got started and how you can help.
What's your personal connection to this cause?
In May of 2011, I met a family at a North Side food pantry in need of an emergency supply of diapers and formula for their infant daughter. As the mother of my own infant daughter, I was absolutely devastated by the thought of not being able to provide her with such basic essentials. I emailed my personal network with a request to share any of their spare baby supplies to benefit this local family. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we quickly collected hundreds of donations from parents eager to help those less fortunate.
The following month, Share Our Spare was founded by myself and nine other Chicago women with a desire to help local families in need. While the births of our own children resulted in an overwhelming accumulation of gear for our little ones, we knew that many families were struggling to provide their children with even the most basic essentials. Recognizing that we had more "stuff" for our children than necessary—and knowing that so many mothers in the community were going without—we were inspired to come together create this organization.
Why is this charity so important for Chicago kids?
We provide parents with a meaningful way to teach their children about giving back, empathy and understanding the needs of our communities. We offer age-appropriate volunteer opportunities for families to participate in together. Even young children can make connections about the power of helping those less fortunate when it is relevant to their world.
Whether it's collecting items in lieu of birthday party gifts, hosting a classroom drive around the holidays, volunteering in our warehouse with a Scout group, sorting clothes or counting diapers, there are endless ways to get involved—and that goes for adults, too! We've enjoyed hosting a variety of groups at our warehouse: corporations for service days, mom groups for "sip and sorts" and the Honeycomb Project with its amazing army of family volunteers.
How has being involved in this charity affected you as a parent?
I've been lucky enough to meet many of the parents we are helping. The truth is that they all want to provide the same things for their children as we do, but many of them are faced with making heartbreaking choices that thankfully we don't have to make. Choosing between providing essentials for their children (diapers, wipes, appropriate clothing, etc.) or paying bills or providing food—it seems unimaginable but it is the reality for many of the families that Share Our Spare serves.
As my husband and I are involved in a few organizations around the city serving individuals affected by homelessness, this is often a topic of conversation at home. Our oldest daughter has spent lots of time at ourwarehouse, she has personally chosen her own items to donate and has gone with me to deliver donations to other children. Every year for her birthday party, we ask guests to consider donating an item to ShareOur Spare in lieu of gifts. During the holidays, we sponsor a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless at a local synagogue and we adopt a family with our neighbors through a local food pantry. Our kids help us shop for presents on their lists, wrap gifts and make cards, and then we deliver everything to the family together.
How can people get involved?
We accept donations at our River West warehouse on the first Saturday of each month from 1-4 pm. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more information on donation drop-offs, events and volunteering.