The holiday season has a magical way of producing a case of the gimmies. Use the holidays as a way to teach your kids that giving is just as rewarding as receiving. We uncovered some of Portland’s hardest-working nonprofits who have room for volunteers of all ages looking to make a difference. Read on for opportunities you whole family can do together.
photo: Children’s Book Bank
Children’s Book Bank
The book bank offers opportunties for some of Portland’s youngest good-doers to participate in. Once a month, families with children (ages 6+) are welcome to come and rehabilitate gently-used, community-donated children’s books that will make their way to low-income preschool children in the Portland area. While fixing up the books, you can chat with others at the table about favorite storybook characters and authors, or discuss the importance of getting books to children in every household.
1728 NE Glisan St.
Northwest Children’s Outreach
Another great opportunity for families with itty bitties is NCO. This 100% volunteer-run program accepts donations of gently used children’s clothing, toys, baby gear and more. Volunteers sort the donations and pack orders, as well as put together kits filled with hygiene supplies or diapers. Young volunteers are encouraged to pack kits along with their parents, and the tiniest members are welcome to play nearby (and are lovingly referred to as the “toy testers”). No training is required, just get in touch to become a volunteer.
Various locations including Beaverton, Tualatin and Hillsboro.
photo: Hands on Greater Portland
Hands On Greater Portland
We recommend this organization as a great starting point for families wanting to get some volunteer experiences lined up for kids of any age. They have a dedicated page of children’s volunteer opportunities that includes step-by-step instructions for signing up for events as a family as well as ideas for independent youngsters to make a difference by doing projects at home or in their neighborhoods. Check their calendar of events for a comprehensive list. Minimum age requirements are listed right in the project titles for your convenience.
Various locations around greater Portland.
Oregon Food Bank
The OFB is a nationwide leader in the distrubution of food to hungry families all across the state. Volunteering at the Portland or Beaverton locations usually involves a couple of hours of work led by organized and efficient staff and volunteers. After 2 hours of packing food, volunteers are told just how many pounds of food were packed and how many families will be fed as a result of their hard work. Talk about instant gratification! Ages 6 and older are welcome in the Volunteer Action Center, and a new volunteer opportunity is available for ages 14 and older in the Fresh Alliance program, which brings fresh and perishable foods from grocery stores to homes in 24 hours. Children 6 and over are welcome at the Beaverton facility but age 14 is required at the Portland Headquarters. Be sure to check their website for the repacking schedule.
photo: Friends of Trees
Friends of Trees
It’s a no-brainer that Portlanders are friendly to our trees, right? This organization takes it one step further by sending their volunteers (including children ages 6 and up) all over Oregon and SW Washington to plant trees. Dress for the outdoors and they will provide you with gloves and tools (for big helpers and little alike) and guide you in the day’s tasks. Group volunteering is welcome but requested that you RSVP, while individuals and smaller groups can simply show up. Events occur almost every Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. from October to April. Check their calendar of events for details.
Various locations around Portland, Vancouver and Salem.
Blanchet House of Hospitality
Taking teens to a soup kitchen can be a meaningful experience and great opportunity for discussion about community hunger. Every month the Blanchet House of Hospitality serves 29,000-33,000 meals to the hungry and homeless, and it wouldn’t happen without reliable volunteers. They have an impressive youth committee of over 1,000 teen volunteers per year helping out. Three hot meals are served Monday-Saturday, and volunteers are needed to plate and serve, then help clean up. Contact the Blanchet House to volunteer and find out what the youth in your house can do alongside you. Volunteers must be age 12 and older.
310 NW Glisan St. in Old Town/Chinatown
photo: Heart 2 Heart Farms
Heart 2 Heart Farms
It’s no surprise that this family-oriented farm is welcoming of the whole family to volunteer. If you arrive with young ones you can expect to be sowing seeds in the children’s garden, feeding the baby animals (visitors are welcome to help with bottle-feeding calves at 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. daily), collecting eggs from the laying hens or simply walking through the woods collecting sticks. Make sure to dress for the weather and potentially muddy conditions (i.e. don’t forget your boots and gloves). They now have a food pantry that is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00-12:00 p.m., and volunteers are needed during that time. Scheduling your volunteer shift with the farm manager is appreciated, so give them a call and they’ll see when they can fit you in.
21555 SW Hells Canyon Rd.
Portland Fruit Tree Project
Harvest party, anyone? The Portland Fruit Tree Project has a wide variety of volunteer roles to choose from, but harvesting parties sound like the most fun to us. First, the Fruit Tree Project is contacted to visit local trees and harvest fruit that would otherwise go to waste. At a harvest party, half the fruit collected goes to a local food bank, and the other half goes home with the volunteers (and half of those slots are reserved for those on low incomes). Registration is first-come, first-served, and if you don’t make it by the end of this harvest season, the next season will begin in early July. Schedules are posted at the beginning of each month.
5431 NE 20th Ave.
Does your family give back to the community by volunteering together? Share your ideas in the comments below!
– Marianne Walters