Winnetka, Community

Donations by the carload Make a Difference for 15 charities

Winnetka’s Indian Hills train station was filled with cars and goodwill on Saturday, Oct. 23, during the Volunteer Center of NE Metro Chicago’s 19th Make-A-Difference Day program.

The event has become a beloved community tradition, allowing residents to clear their closets while directly impacting dozens of nonprofits. This year, 15 charities set up stations to receive donations ranging from jewelry to athletic gear — and everything in between.

Volunteer Center Executive Director Barb Tubekis guided the traffic, once again in awe of the overwhelming community support. 

“I see so many familiar faces here each year,” she said. “I love it when people tell me they have permanently etched the fourth Saturday of October onto their calendars, making sure they never miss the event.”

In between chatting with donors and directing the flow of traffic, Tubekis stopped at each nonprofit’s station, thrilled to hear positive news. 

“The best part of this event is when I hear our nonprofit representatives tell me how efficient and useful this event is,” Tubekis said. “In just a few short hours, our nonprofits receive the exact donations they need and are able to put them to good use immediately. I’m thrilled to know this event can provide so much good, for so many.” 

Helping the Counseling Center of the North Shore accept donations are (left to right) Suparma Sharma, Bob Sanfilippo, Pam Parrish and Jan Churchwell.

One of those nonprofits was the North Shore Counseling Center, located at 992 1/2 Green Bay Road in Hubbard Woods. The center relies on proceeds from the Winnetka Thrift Store, located in the same building, to provide affordable therapeutic services for their clientele.

In fact, last year alone, thanks to the shop’s sales, the counseling center underwrote nearly $300,000 in client fees, allowing them to provide a high level of subsidized treatment for those who may not otherwise be able to afford mental health care. 

“Once again, we are having a very good day. Our truck is already almost full,” said Bob Sanfilippo, the center’s executive director. “We are so appreciative of the abundance of high-quality supplies we receive each year.”  

Counseling center board member Jan Churchwell, who also happens to be the New Trier Township assessor added:

“The good people of the North Shore have so much and are very generous. This is a great way to bring our community together over the act of paying it forward.”

Along with the outpouring of community support, Margot Flanagin, of Glencoe, a Volunteer Center board member and Make-A-Difference Day chairperson, applauded the volunteers and nonprofits for making the day possible. 

“What strikes me most this year is the abundance of volunteers,” she said. “In particular, I’m noticing a lot of kids working the event. I’ve seen many of our youth volunteers carrying huge bags of donations, making sure they get to the correct nonprofit.

“I’m also really struck by the kindness between the nonprofits themselves. There’s a real strong sense of friendship here today that is important to note; it’s all very heartwarming.” 

Missed the date but still want to contribute? Email the Volunteer Center at to learn how you can continue to support dozens of nonprofits with gently used donations.

Likewise, if you are looking for a local venue to drop off men and women’s clothing visit the Winnetka Thrift Stores website at to learn about how and when you can support this local resource.

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Alexa Burnell

Alexa Burnell is a Wilmette resident who has been covering the North Shore for the past seven years, previously for The Wilmette Beacon and its sister newspapers.

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