Cars lined the block as families and volunteers loaded pounds of food into their trunks. In the backseats, kids smiled and hugged their new stuffed animals, and parents were excited to give their family something to be thankful for. 

Uniting for the Holidays is an annual event supporting families and individuals in need during the holiday season. This year, United Way of Metro Chicago is teaming up with our community partners to serve holiday meals in six locations around the suburban region, including Des Plaines and Palatine. 

Last week, in Palatine, 500 households received 15-pound turkeys and boxes of shelf stable food, including stuffing, green beans, mushrooms, soup, and cornbread. Kids received Under Armour backpacks, tote bags, stuffed animals and PPE kits that included hand sanitizer and a mask. 

Our partners Catholic Charities in Des Plaines and Partners for Our Communities in Palatine supported the events and identified families that were most in need. 

Uniting for the Holidays is generously supported by our donors and corporate sponsors, including Regional Presenting Sponsor IlliniCare Health (soon to be Aetna Better Health of Illinois) and Presenting Sponsor Seigle Family Foundation. Their gifts will ensure that families have somewhere to turn for support, food and basic needs this holiday season.

75-year old Ted Brainer was one of many local community members that attended Uniting for the Holidays in Des Plaines. 

 “It’s nice that the sponsors are charitable and giving people a meal to help out with their needs. Being older, events like these come in handy,” Mr. Brainer said. 

To make sure that all families were safe during the event, United Way of Metro Chicago served via drive-up. Children would lean out of windows to grab turkeys and backpacks. And Santa even stopped by to hand out candy!

“I have five grandchildren and we really enjoyed yesterday. It was very nice. We got a lot of food so we don’t have to go out everyday,” said Sophia Kusnierz, a community member. 

Gail Annes who has been to Uniting For the Holidays in the past said, “It is very securing, to know that if you are hungry you can go get a meal. It has been a wonderful blessing to experience.”

Financially, families were hit hard by the pandemic. While food pantries are in full force, it is not always sustainable for families to get all of their food from there. Uniting for the Holidays gave families an alternative. 

In an interview with the Daily Herald, Sean Garrett, our president and CEO, said: “This is a small step, but it’s a hope that being the holidays during what has been a complex 2020…that it will bring a little bit of help and help make the holidays a little bit more joyful.”

More Uniting for the Holidays events will be held in December in Chicago Heights, Ford Heights, Blue Island, Robbins, Elgin and West Chicago. 

Make a donation to Uniting for the Holidays to bring joy to families this holiday season!


Story by Jessica Jones, AmeriCorps Multimedia Journalist