Poverty Alleviation Charities is a nonprofit organization on a mission to use Art as a conduit to transform passive compassion into immediate assistance through the distribution of money given, without expectation or judgement, directly to families suffering poverty.
Our vision is twofold: to provide four unique programs which alleviate the physical and emotional suffering that families endure as a result of the inequities that accompany poverty and to assist impoverished families in directly combating poverty with the only known remedy: money.
1995 Heather Whinna stopped by the post office on her way home and found bins full of letters addressed to Santa Claus left out by the post office for people to read and answer. She took one of the letters home and showed it to her husband, Steve Albini. Together they put together some clothes, needed items mentioned in the letter and some money. On Christmas morning, they drove to the address unannounced, found the author of the letter and delivered the package. For the next few years they gave whatever they could manage to other families that had reached out for help through the post office’s program.
2002 Heather was working at the Second City comedy theater in Chicago while one of her colleagues, Andy Cobb debuted a 24-hour improv marathon to raise money for a homeless shelter. Andy and Heather decided to combine their efforts and arranged a 24-hour show at the Second City in December of that year to raise money that was used to answer even more letters, turning Christmas morning into an all-day affair.
2009 The post office discontinued full access to letters addressed to Santa. Heather reached out to Jane Addams Hull House, one of Chicago’s largest social welfare organizations, and they agreed to work with her. Hull House asked the communities they served to apply for aid by writing a letter to Santa which were then sent to Heather for selecting the recipients. This partnership was enjoyed until Hull House closed its doors in 2012.
2012 A new partnership was formed with Onward Neighborhood House, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides free adult education, affordable child care and many more social services to disadvantaged Chicago families. ONH encourages the community they serve to write a letter to Santa.
2018 In January, Heather began taking steps to create an organization that would become a home for the Letters To Santa program and would allow her to pursue more charitable outreach programs year-round. On September 17th Poverty Alleviation Chicago was officially incorporated.
TODAY Poverty Alleviation Chicago is recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). We are expanding our Letters To Santa program to Oakland, California and are in the process of changing our name to Poverty Alleviation Charities.