Most kids are familiar with the joy of getting, but if you’re looking to immerse your family in the joy of giving this summer, several area non-profits are ready to help foster the spirit of volunteering in your budding good Samaritans. If having fun while helping others is an appealing combo, have a look at the list below.


photo: Portland Fruit Tree Project, courtesy of lawdork via Flickr Creative Commons

The Portland Fruit Tree Project
The mission at PFTP is to increase access to healthy food and they do it in a fun, community-oriented way. They organize harvesting parties to glean fruit from places where it might normally be wasted or under-used. For example, neighbors who don’t make use of the fruit trees in their backyard can register their trees. Neighbors who would love to utilize the fruit can come and participate in a harvest. In 2013 alone, the organization harvested 32,700 pounds of fruit.

To help out, you and your knee-high cherry pickers can attend a harvest party where half of the fruit gathered will go to local food banks, and the other half will get divvied up among the volunteer pickers. If you’re not sure what to do with your share of the pears, plums, apples, figs, etc., the PFTP also offers food preservation workshops.

Executive Director Katy Kolker says that volunteers should sign up in advance. They also need to keep an eye on kiddos at all times during the harvest parties. All ages are welcome, but kids 5-12 are recommended.

5431 NE 20th Ave.
Portland, Or
Online at


Photo: Oregon Food Bank, courtesy of David Owen via Flickr Creative Commons

The Oregon Food Bank
Your family can participate in this massive operation to prevent hunger in the state by volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank, which distributed 43.5 million pounds of food to hunger-relief agencies in 2013. An on-site learning garden at their Portland headquarters is open to volunteers of all ages. They also encourage kids to participate in several other volunteering shifts, including those in the volunteer action center to repack and label bulk dry food in a lively, active environment (ages six and up), and in their Beaverton perishables repack room (ages six and up). Kids under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult chaperone.

7900 NE 33rd Dr.
Portland, Or
Online at


photo: Friends of Trees, courtesy via Flickr Creative Commons

Friends of Trees
If one tree-oriented outdoor volunteer activity isn’t enough for you after the summer, consider attending a public planting with Friends of Trees, which resumes planting season each fall. Since founding in 1989, Friends of Trees has planted over a half-million trees and counting. Kids of all ages are welcome at all plantings, however, those under the age of 18 must have a signed parental waiver form. And for every five children under 15 years of age, one adult guardian must be present.

3117 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Portland, Or
Online at

Mary Rose, Elena & Nicolas Navarro

photo: Courtesy of Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels has been providing food and comfort to seniors since 1970, serving over one million meals in 2013. While children of any age are welcome to accompany their parents on volunteer delivery routes, they must be at least 14 years old to volunteer in the MOW neighborhood centers. Each of the organizations 34 neighborhood meal sites arrange for their own volunteers, so if families are interested they should contact the center nearest to them. A list of centers is available on their website. Meals On Wheels also welcomes children and families to make greeting cards or decorate placemats for homebound clients. One such group is coordinated through Cafe Au Play.

7710 SW 31st Ave.
Portland, Or
Online at


photo: Northwest Children’s Outreach, courtesy of David Owen via Flickr Creative Commons

Northwest Children’s Outreach
The Northwest Children’s Outreach provides a cool opportunity for kids to directly help other kids. Their mission is to help fill the needs of families in the Portland area by providing vulnerable families with diapers, formula, blankets, toys and other essential supplies.

For example, one volunteer recently read the children’s book The Hundred Dresses with her six-year-old daughter, which inspired them to collect 50 dresses and donate them to NCO. The organization often hosts community events where kids ages four and up are encouraged to come with their parents and help to prepare and organize care packages of clothes, toys and hygiene items. Kids under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult, and as with all the organizations on this list, parents are asked to register spots in advance for themselves and their children.

335 NE 18th Ave.
Portland, Or
Online at


photo: Zenger Farm, credit nitchwick via Flickr Creative Commons

Zenger Farm
Not many cities have a 320-acre urban farm that is also a public space for sustainable farming and environmental education, but leave it to Portland to offer such a place. Originally hunting and fishing grounds for the Chinook band, the land in Southeast Portland became a family farm in the 1800s and operated that way until it was purchased by the city in 1994. Now, volunteers tend to the vegetables, fruits, chickens, turkeys, bees and red wiggler worms.

Zenger representatives say that there are plenty of opportunities for families to cook, garden and learn together in their gardens, kitchen and at their farmer’s market booth. If you and your little ones would like to lend a hand, Zenger often hosts work parties open to all ages. If you’d just like to have a tour of the farm and learn a bit more about it, self-guided tours are offered every Friday in the summer from 2-5 p.m.

11741 SE Foster Rd.
Portland, Or
Online at


photo: Courtesy of Children’s Book Bank

Children’s Book Bank
If the hot weather has you hankering for shade, why not surround yourself with books and help others out at the same time? The Children’s Book Bank, a community driven non-profit that gets books to children who might not otherwise have them, provides that opportunity once a month for families who want to volunteer together. Children ages five and up are invited to volunteer with Children’s Book Bank in a book cleaning session, where volunteers mend, clean and spruce up gently used  books to prepare them for their new homes. They offer these family-friendly volunteer sessions through Hands On Portland once a month on Saturdays from 10-11:30 a.m. Families can sign up by emailing

1728 NE Glisan St.
Portland, Or
Online at

Do you volunteer with your kids?  If so, tell us who you support in the Comments below!

–Ty Adams