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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here we go…. in no particular order.
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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!
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!
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 email@example.com