Christmas is the season of giving and most focus only on their families and close friends, but don’t forget those in our local community who you may not know personally but who are in dire need of life’s basic neccessities such as food, shelter and other essentials that we mostly take for granted. The Heart of Illinois United Way says that least 400 people are living in shelters and on the street in Peoria. Many of these depend upon several hard working charities in the Peoria area to get them through the hard times.
And each of those charities could use either financial aid or volunteers during this holiday season. If you’re not familiar with these charities, here’s a brief listing with what type of aid they offer.
Salvation Army: Most people are familiar with the traditional red kettle with a bell ringer nearby in front of shopping centers throughout the holiday shopping season. On their website, they claim that they help with physical needs such as grocery, utility and gift assistance, to emotional experiences including holiday events and traditions, to spiritual guidance that provides healing and hope. Locally, the Salvation Army has a veterans outreach center, a family shelter, a child care center along with their family service center. They are also the charity that hosts the Journal Star Red Stocking Party annually. Donations may be made at any red kettle location or for more information about the organization, visit https://centralusa.salvationarmy.org/peoria
South Side Mission: They provide 3,500 meals to those in need in our community through hundreds of volunteers. Their main focus is on the 61605 zip code in Peoria where poverty is one of the greatest challenges for the more than 16,000 residents. This zip code has a 49% poverty rate compared to 17% for Peoria county and is one of the 100 poorest zip codes in the country. 38,000 volunteer hours annually are donated to the Mission which has an annual budget of $4 million, supported completely by donations. The charity receives no government or United Way funding. You may have seen their flyers that say “$2.05 will provide a Christmas dinner” – donors who respond to that make up a large part of their funding especially for the holiday meals that are provided at Thanksgiving and Christmas. For information about how to donate or volunteer, visit https://southsidemission.org
Peoria Food Bank: The Peoria Area Food Bank was founded in 1984 to supplement the dietary and nutritional needs of low-income families in Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. provides 80 very active pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters with large quantities of food from name brand manufacturers and USDA commodities on a daily basis. They also operate two mobile food pantries in Mason County and assist eight pantries that provide backpacks to hundreds of children on the weekend. For more information about the Peoria Food Bank, visit http://www.peoriafoodbank.org
WestMark Food Pantry: The WestMark Food Pantry is a community outreach service sponsored by Westminster Presbyterian Church and St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Peoria to provide hunger relief in our community. Serving nearly 2,000 individuals per month, the food pantry offers assistance to those who live within the greater Peoria area. Donations of food and financial assistance are appreciated. For more information, call 309-673-8501 or visit http://westminsterpeoria.org/serve/food-pantry
If you know of other area charities that help specificially during the holidays that are not listed here, please send us their details to our contact us form.