Our Charity of the Month for April is Inspiration Corporation, the coolest place to volunteer.  IC is a community organization that helps people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness, offering meals, case management, job training, and housing.  What started out 23 years ago as one woman pulling a little red Radio Flyer wagon filled with sandwiches and coffee is now a powerhouse of homeless services.

But they still maintain that family feel through the 2 core programs:  Inspiration Cafe and The Living Room Cafe.  In these gorgeous spaces, participants gather daily for meals and camaraderie.  The meals are cooked and served by volunteers, and this has got to be one of the coolest volunteer opportunities in the city.  Where else can a volunteer have direct interaction and develop personal relationships with the people they’re there to help?  It’s a friendly environment and a meaningful experience, for sure.

Serving meals is my personal favorite volunteer job at IC, but there are others.  Mock-interviewers are always needed to give practice to participants who are applying for work.  You could also volunteer in the resource center, giving basic lessons on Word, Excel, and even online job searching.

Don’t have time to volunteer, but still want to be involved?  Well, ya gotta eat, don’t ya?  Stop by Inspiration Kitchens!!  One of the most innovative of IC’s programs, Inspiration Kitchens is a social enterprise – a job training program consisting of 2 restaurants open to the public, one in Uptown and one in Garfield Park.  After several weeks of classroom instruction, students get on-the-job training in the restaurants, preparing and serving delicious food to happy customers.

I was recently one of those happy customers.  You can read my review of that experience here.