Spreading Holiday Cheer at the Community Cycling Center’s Holiday Bike Drive

When I’m not providing program and social media support here in 3CE, you can find me at Hands On Greater Portland where I work and intern part time. A large chunk of my responsibility at Hands On is organizing and developing their TeamWorks program. According to Hands On, the “TeamWorks program offers volunteers the opportunity to make a slightly longer-term commitment to volunteering. Through TeamWorks, a team of around 10-12 volunteers work together on a series of projects over a period of a couple months, allowing them to get to know one another and gain a deeper understanding of community issues.”

In my experience, this model is a really useful way to dive deeper into a specific issue area, meet people with similar interests, and make meaningful connections to local non-profits. It’s also the closest thing to service learning, something that we’re a big fan of in 3CE, that Hands On offers.

Most recently, I helped develop and participated in the Intentional Holiday Service TeamWorks. It was focused on reframing how we think about the holiday season in order to maximize joy and minimize stress. The absolute highlight of the TeamWorks was volunteering at the Community Cycling Center’s Holiday Bike Drive. You can read more about the Community Cycling Center in my last blog post. I should note that this one of the most highly coveted volunteer shifts of the year. I emailed their volunteer coordinator nearly four months in advance to secure our slots.

The Holiday Bike Drive provides refurbished bikes, new helmets, and safety information to hundreds of low-income children in the Portland area. I had the privilege of serving as a helmet fitter at this wonderful event and had a great time. I have to say that I was initially surprised by how involved helmet fitting is. Children’s bike helmets are much fancier now (and much safer) than when I was a kid so it took some practice to properly adjust all of the straps and get it just right.

The event was also a lesson in cultural competence. Many of the families at the Bike Drive were immigrants and came through the various stations accompanied by a volunteer interpreter. I enjoyed seeing all of the different hairstyles sported by the young girls. I had to take care to fit helmets around buns, braids, beads, and head scarves.

Bike Drive Promotional Poster designed by Ben Latterell

By the end of the day we had given away nearly 500 refurbished bikes and new helmets. It was inspiring to see the joy on the faces of these children and their parents. In my mind, participating in events like this is what it really means to get into the “holiday spirit.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the Community Cycling Center, visit their volunteer page. I’d recommend getting involved with their Tuesday night volunteer shifts, attending a volunteer orientation session, and learning more about the classes, camps, and workshops they offer. If nothing else, you can buy your next bike from the bike shop.

I want to leave you all with my favorite story from the day. Some sneaky parents told their son that he was going to the hospital to get “a poke” (i.e. vaccine. The event was held in the beautiful atrium of a local hospital). When they arrived at the hospital, the parents told their son that he was actually there to get a shiny new bike, not a shot. As you can imagine, this was thrilling news.

So I challenge you all to get into the holiday spirit by going out into your neighborhood and meeting critical community needs. There’s a place for holiday gift giving, cookie baking, and feasting, but I challenge you to give gifts to a children’s hospital, bake cookies for home-bound seniors, and feast with the homeless at a soup kitchen or food pantry. ‘Tis the season to give back.

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Kelsey Domann-Scholz is the Program Coordinator in 3CE and also works as the TeamWorks Intern at Hands On Greater Portland. You can email her at kdomann@lclark.edu.

My Top 6 Volunteer Spots in Portland

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics in 2010, Oregon is home to 21,990 nonprofit organizations, which means lots of opportunities to volunteer! With so many great organizations, it can be challenging to know where to start volunteering. To make it a little easier, I’ve outlined my top six places to volunteer below. Please note that this is based on my own personal experience and I know that there are many other wonderful opportunities out there that I have yet to discover. If you want to suggest something to me, please feel free to shoot me an email at kdomann@lclark.edu.

Here we go…. in no particular order.

1) Community Cycling Center

The Community Cycling Center “broadens access to bicycling and its benefits through [their] hands-on programs, volunteer projects, and neighborhood bike shop.” I’ve participated in their Tuesday evening volunteer shift as a volunteer “mechanic” (I actually just cleaned the bikes but the real mechanics work on them) preparing bikes for their Holiday Bike Drive, a program that gives over 400 bikes and helmets to children from low-income families in the Portland area. Their other programs include commuter classes, after school programs, and bike camps. To get involved, visit their volunteer page.

2) Operation Nightwatch

I have had some truly amazing experiences at Operation Night Watch. ONW is a hospitality center downtown that aims to meet both the physical and social needs of Portland’s homeless population. I love playing board games with patrons while drinking hot coffee and hearing their story. Click here to learn more.

3) ReBuilding Center

“The ReBuilding Center, a project of Our United Villages, is a vibrant resource working to strengthen the environmental, economic, and social fabric of local communities.” Their main gig is reclaiming building materials and selling them at low prices in their store. You can find everything from scrap wood to fancy claw foot bathtubs to furniture in their warehouse and ReFind Furniture store. This is the way of our sustainable future! Sign up to do a shift in warehouse, sorting screws or pulling nails out of old boards, or check out their long-term volunteer opportunities.  Groups can volunteer Monday through Saturday 9 am to 6 pm, and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. You can also sign up for “after hours” projects through Hands-On-Greater-Portland.

4) TeamWorks with Hands On Greater Portland

Interested in making a longer-term commitment to volunteering and going deeper into the issues? Then TeamWorks is for you! Teams consist of 10-12 volunteers who commit to a series of 4-6 projects over the span of a month or two. Projects are supplemented with articles, podcasts, video clips, and group discussions. To date, I’ve been involved with three different TeamWorks teams, once as a leader and twice as a participant.

This fall I participated in Hands On’s “Focus on Prisons” team that guided us through exploring the successes and shortcomings of the criminal justice system via service. We volunteered at letter-writing parties, visited rehabilitation centers, watched films, and even took a tour of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon’s only women’s prison.

I also had the privilege of leading the “Discover Portland” TeamWorks this summer. It was designed to introduce our great city to recent transplants via community service. We did quintessential Portland Projects such as the Community Cycling Center and Zenger Farm (both of which I highlight in this post!) and got to spend some quality time getting to know one another.

Currently, I’m participating the “Intentional Holiday Service” team. We are working together to reframe how we experience the holidays – think less stress, more giving, and more joy. We made holiday cards for home-bound seniors and served meals to the homeless this week and will be volunteering at a party for LGBTQ Seniors and working at the Community Cycling Center’s Bike Giveaway this coming weekend. It’s been very centering during this busy time of year!

5) Zenger Farm

When it comes to urban farming, Zenger Farm is where it’s at! Originally a dairy farm purchased by Ulrich Zenger in 1913, Zenger Farm is now  “dedicated to promoting sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship and local economic development through a working urban farm.” They host a number of programs including field trips for schoolchildren, cooking classes, work parties, a chicken co-op, providing food for the Lents International Farmers Market, CSA pick up, and summer camps, just to name a few!

6) Art with Refugee Children at Kateri Park (Catholic Charities)

Want to give back to the community by fostering relationships with refugee children through art? Sign up to “Get Artsy with Refugee Kids,” a program run by Catholic Charities and Hands On Greater Portland. Every Friday afternoon, children line up at the doors of Kateri Park, a transitional housing unit, to take part in art projects organized by the wonderful folks at Catholic Charities. The most recent time I went, we spent the afternoon folding origami animals. It was great fun! It was also so rewarding to see a smile on a child’s face. Click here to read about “Get Artsy” on the Hands On Greater Portland Blog.

So there you have it. That’s my top six! I’ll be sure to share my new favorite volunteer spots as I discover them!

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Kelsey Domann-Scholz is the Program Coordinator in 3CE and also works as the TeamWorks Intern at Hands On Greater Portland. When she’s not busy volunteering she likes to take her dog, Puma, to the dog park and work in her garden. You can reach her at kdomann@lclark.edu

Start Making a Reader Today!

Start Making a Reader Today, or better known as SMART is a program that Lewis & Clark has partnered with for a number of years now and it has proved to be something that our students really enjoy participating in. 8 students are participating in the program this semester. They head over to Woodmere Elementary in Southeast on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and spend an hour reading to the students there, help to improve their literacy and reading confidence. Here are some comments on their experience volunteering with SMART this semester from Jeff and Isabel…

“My name is Isabel Ball and I am a first year student at Lewis & Clark College. It has been an incredibly unique experience to get the chance to volunteer with the 3CE SMART program in just my first semester here. Getting off campus one day a week with my peers to read with elementary school students has helped me in feeling connected to the both the L & C community and the greater Portland community’s non-profits and school districts. Being welcomed with open arms by Woodmere Elementary staff and students has been both motivating and encouraging to me in ways that reach beyond just the experience. SMART is a small time commitment and an excellent way to share the knowledge we are fortunate enough to get here at L & C with kids who deserve all our opportunities and more.”

“My name is Jeff and I’ve worked with kids before, at a climbing gym and a summer camp. I’ve seen how much energy they can have when they get excited. Every time I volunteer with SMART the kids are as excited to read as any I’ve seen climbing a rock wall or playing tag. I feel truly privileged to be able to contribute to these kids’ development in a way that they so enjoy. I must say, their enthusiasm is contagious.”

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Natalie Dole is a Community Engagement Coordinator in 3CE. Jeff and Isabel are volunteers with 3CE’s on-going SMART program.