Nice wheels: Working Bikes Cooperative Director Lee Ravenscroft, an Oak Park resident, poses among some of the thousands of bicycles stored at the non-profit's Chicago warehouse. Working Bikes Cooperative collects, restores, cleans and then distributes donated bikes to people in need, even shipping them to distant countries.File 2009/J.GEIL

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas, unlike the ones I’ve ever known.

So on “Black Friday” I stayed in and started sifting through piles of household clutter — old bikes, books, clothing, outdated cellphones and extra shoes. The overall concept this year was to push forward reusable discards to charitable organizations that would recycle our “stuff” so individuals in need could use them. We also wanted to find a few alternative ways to share ourselves with others.

Ironically, the magic number is 12:

Recycle and reuse

1) Our two old clunkers went to Working Bikes Cooperative, a local volunteer group founded by Oak Parker Lee Ravenscroft. Lee takes all bikes, regardless of condition (brand new, too), fixes or rebuilds them, and ships the like-new two-wheelers to developing countries in Central America and Africa. His group has been doing this for more than a decade, and their philanthropic network is extensive. Check out

2) Next, I bagged up our old running shoes and boots (no dress shoes, please) and left them at the door of Competitive Foot, 108 N. Marion. The longtime local retailer is the year-round dropoff site for Share Your Souls Foundation, www.share Go to for details.

3) Our gently used, oversized, rugged outerwear was donated to the Emergency Clothes Closet, which is housed at Calvary Memorial Church, 931 Lake, although there are other local options to do this, too. Get additional information at www.emergency Or click on (First United Church of Oak Park) to learn and do more.

4) While we love — and brag about — our extensive book and entertainment collections, they need culling. We plan to box up about 200 or so books, records, videos, audiotapes and other sellable items in preparation for the Oak Park Public Library’s Annual Book Fair, their annual collection is in mid-summer, but items can be dropped off at the security desk in the front lobby. Go to

5) The old cell phones formerly cluttering up our kitchen drawer are now en route to troops, thanks to the Cell Phones for Soldiers drop-off site at the AT&T store, 425 N. Harlem in Oak Park. Do more for our soldiers in Iran and Afghanistan now at

Give time and talents

6) Martin Contreras, the Animal Care League’s Volunteer coordinator and assistant director, says he needs a corps of dedicated volunteers to walk their 14 adoptable dogs, and socialize (play with) their more than 40 felines every week. Upcoming volunteer orientation sessions there are this Saturday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 18. Go to, or e-mail Contreras at for details.

7) Yes, I am a tree hugger. So I contacted Jim Chelsvig, a naturalist with Forest Preserve District of Cook County, who says the next outdoors volunteer workday at Harold “Hal” Tyrell Trailside Museum in River Forest is this Saturday, Dec. 4. Subsequent workdays are the first Saturday of each month, he adds. Call Sara at 708-366-6530 for details.

8) Regularly visiting with disabled or elderly vets housed at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital near Maywood is a great way to give something back or start a new volunteer regimen in the new year, says Kim Rusiecki, voluntary aid specialist. Start the process by calling Kim at 708-212-8385 or checking out Anyone interested in staging impromptu group projects for vets this holiday season are welcome to do just that, she says, so do call her.

9) The Senior Citizens Center of Oak Park-River Forest is perennially promoting the benefits of lifelong learning to its membership, age 50 and over. To do it, currently they need volunteer German, Spanish and ceramics instructors. If interested, call 708-848-5251.

10) Ditto for Hephzibah Children’s Association. They always need more volunteers, especially in the new year. Click on their website,, to learn how to get started. Meanwhile, to do something tangible — and fun — attend their 24th Anniversary Party on Wednesday, Dec. 8, from 7 to 11 p.m. at Doc Ryan’s, 7532 W. Madison in Forest Park. The “cover charge” is an unwrapped gift for children, infant to 18 years old, or a gift card which can purchase a present for a local child in need.

11) The issues of homelessness and hunger are prevalent and growing. At the ready are two groups, Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry, and West Suburban PADS. The portals for information and involvement with these two not-for-profit groups are or

Shop local, pay it forward

12) In December, Caribou Coffee at Lake and Harlem is participating in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. Pick up a tag now and return an unwrapped item to Caribou Coffee in Oak Park by Dec. 13. On Dec. 2, Ananas Boutique, 109 N. Oak Park Ave., is donating a portion of its sales that evening to help swell the West Cook YMCA’s scholarship fund. Dec. 6-12 at Muse, 106 S. Marion, 10 percent of sales will benefit three area elementary schools.

Then on Dec. 18, take in a free family flick at the Lake Theatre: Prancer, courtesy of Classic Cinemas, the parent company of The Lake. Doors open at 9:15 a.m. and lights dim at 10 a.m. in the main theater.

Afterwards, in full swing will be Downtown Oak Park’s “Home for the Holidays” celebration. You can take a free horse-drawn sleigh ride. View ice sculpting. Sip free hot cocoa. Visit Santa.

Then, buy local. It is ever green, after all.

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Deb Quantock McCarey

Deb Quantock McCarey is an Illinois Press Association (IPA) award-winning freelance writer who has worked with Wednesday Journal Inc. since 1995, writing features and special sections for all its publications....

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