Family-friendly nonprofit The Honeycomb Project encourages kids to get involved

There's no better time to give back and make someone else's life a little brighter than during the holidays.

And while there are a plethora of volunteer opportunities this time of year, not all of them are good for all ages. But one way to get the whole family involved is through The Honeycomb Project.

Longtime friends Kristina Lowenstein and Catherine Tannen of Chicago were looking for volunteer work with their kids but weren't really finding any family-friendly projects.

So in 2011, they started The Honeycomb Project, where families from across the city and suburbs could help tackle issues like homelessness and community health in Chicago.

"When we founded Honeycomb in 2011, there was a strong interest in family volunteering, yet there were essentially zero opportunities to get kids involved in civic activities," said Kristina Lowenstein, co-founder and executive director of The Honeycomb Project, in an email.

"Today, our volunteer families come from all over Chicagoland. Last year, Honeycomb volunteers represented 98% of Chicago ZIP codes and 61 suburban ZIP codes. We're proud to help families create new traditions around service and play a role in developing the next generation of caring, empathic citizens."

That is exactly what inspired the Sill family of Glenview to get involved.

Andrea and Paul Sill, along with their children Emery and Evan, have been Honeycomb volunteers for the last 10 years.

"When my kids were about 5 and 7 (they are now 17 and 19 and longtime Honeycomb volunteers), I really wanted them to start understanding the importance of giving back to their community," said Andrea Sill in an email.

"I started researching nonprofits that had opportunities for kids to get involved, and I was surprised at how few there were and how disparate they were.

"When I found Honeycomb, they were just starting out and it seemed like a perfect fit. Our first project was a volunteer event at the Anti-Cruelty Society, and it was fantastic. Not only did we have a great time as a family, our kids got to see the tangible impact they made. I credit this event for our decision to adopt two rescue chihuahuas as well!"

Since 2014, the Sill Family has attended more than 40 projects, including sewing quilts for pediatric patients, wrapping holiday gifts and preparing meals at Sarah's Circle.

While the majority of Honeycomb's projects take place in Chicago, suburban families are encouraged to get involved. There are a variety of opportunities each month for families, and Sill said most of the events are held on the weekends, which makes it easier to participate.

And, according to its website,, the organization does all of the planning for each outing.

"What is great about Honeycomb is the incredible variety of projects and ways to get involved," Sill said.

"We have participated in dozens of volunteer events together - making dog beds for shelter animals, hosting holiday parties for children at Shirley Ryan, running an adaptive softball tournament for wounded veterans, making and delivering cookies to pediatric hospital patients, hosting events for seniors and veterans, beach cleanups, food and clothing drives, and the list goes on and on.

"Meeting other Honeycomb families has also been amazing. You get to give back to the community while expanding your own," she said.

Starting on Thanksgiving and running through New Year's Day, The Honeycomb Project will be offering its Season of Service initiative, which features more than 20 hands-on volunteer projects for families to do.

There also will be Hive Drives, where volunteers gather and donate items for Honeycomb's local nonprofit partners, including food donations to stock a Love Fridge; coats and cold weather items for people served by Our Lady of Angels; books and pajamas for children served through Chicago HOPE for Kids; homemade holiday cards; basic necessities for people experiencing homelessness; classroom supplies for Chicago Public School teachers.

"Our Season of Service holiday activation gives kids of all ages a chance to get involved in a range of volunteer projects that align with families' interests and values," Lowenstein said.

"For example, for kids who enjoy being outdoors, we offer a chance to work in a nature preserve, while those who love crafting will have fun creating handmade home goods from discarded fabric for families transitioning from homelessness. There are dozens of engaging ways to support local nonprofits, and ultimately help people in need."

Volunteers are also invited to create a team of up to six people for the upcoming Holiday Cheer Challenge from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, starting at the InterContinental Hotel (Renaissance Ballroom, 5th floor), 505 N. Michigan Ave.

Participants of all ages will race around downtown Chicago spreading cheer by caroling, giving thank-you notes to city workers or even staging scenes from "The Nutcracker."

Funds raised during the Holiday Cheer Challenge - through ticket sales and sponsorships - help maintain Honeycomb's year-round programs. Cost is $95 for adults and $55 for kids, with various sponsorships available.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

"What is so extraordinary about Honeycomb is that it gives families an opportunity to step outside their daily experience and help Chicagoans in need together," Sill said. "As parents, it has helped us instill an important value in our kids by getting them involved in a hands-on way."

Emery and Evan Sill of Glenview take part in The Honeycomb Project's 2022 Holiday Cheer Challenge. The Sill family has been volunteering with the organization since 2014. courtesy of the Honeycomb Project
A family has fun while taking part in the 2022 Holiday Cheer Challenge in Chicago. Families are encouraged to sign up for this event, which takes place Dec. 17 as a fundraiser for The Honeycomb Project. courtesy of The Honeycomb Project
Evan Sill of Glenview writes a positive message on the sidewalk in Chicago during the The Honeycomb Project's 2022 Holiday Cheer Challenge. This year's event takes place Dec. 17. courtesy of The Honeycomb Project

The Honeycomb Project

<b>Season of Service</b>What: Families can volunteer for a variety of hands-on projects, including Hive Drives, where volunteers gather and donate items for Honeycomb's local nonprofit partners in Chicago.

When: Thanksgiving through New Year's Day

Details: <a href=""></a>

<b>Holiday Cheer Challenge</b>When: 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17

Where: Starting at the InterContinental Hotel (Renaissance Ballroom, fifth floor), 505 N. Michigan Ave.

Cost: $95 for adults and $55 for kids, with various sponsorships available.

Tickets: <a href=""></a>

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