Volunteer Opportunities In Portland: How to Get Involved!

Picture of someone planting a tree. Volunteers foster positive growth within our communities. 
Illustration by Pearl McNames.

Finding time for activities outside of school can be difficult for some students. Regardless of one’s schedule and time commitments, volunteering offers great opportunities to gain new skills, meet new people, learn more about the things you are passionate about and help support your community. As a high school student in Portland, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to finding the right organization to volunteer with because there are so many different opportunities available. This article will provide you with resources to find opportunities and organizations that are a good fit for you.

YouthLine: 

YouthLine is a non profit organization that uses the voices of youth to help others. YouthLine’s mission is to prevent substance abuse and suicide, as well as to promote mental health and wellness. YouthLine is a peer to peer connection based crisis line where kids and teens are able to talk to volunteers. The peer to peer design makes it so that young folks are able to relate in a different way than most adults can. “We absolutely believe in the power of youth voice and youth knowledge and experience,” said Morgan Leets, Assistant Director of Youth Development Training and Quality Assurance at YouthLine. Leets explained why she was so passionate about the work that they do within their organization. “I love that it’s not only supporting in this moment of crisis but also promoting this mental wellness piece.” 

Focusing on the crisis in the moment is important, but it is also important to gain and understand what happened prior to the crisis as well as what will happen or what actions will be taken after the crisis. If you are ever feeling like you are in a moment of crisis, YouthLine takes calls, texts, and chats. “If someone believes it’s a crisis then so do we,” stated Leets. 

How do you sign up and get involved? Once a month they hold a virtual orientation. If you are under the age of 18, they ask that you bring a parent or supportive adult with you. If you are still interested by the end of the meeting, you can begin the application process. After your application is accepted and you have gone through an interview, the next step is to go through an intensive training. They ask all volunteers for a commitment of one year where they come in for a shift once a week. 

Once you have committed, the responsibilities you hold include answering calls, texts, and chats on your weekly shift. Volunteers must also participate in outreach events which might look like presentations within middle and high school classrooms or going to community events. There are upcoming training sessions in December and again in March. 

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with YouthLine and would like to know more about how to get involved, email youthl@linesfourlife.org or text “orvol” to 85511. 

Passion Impact:

Passion Impact is another non profit organization that strives to get students involved with their community by fostering newfound passions. This organization wants to make sure kids are pursuing their interests through identity development, working within social justice, as well as learning about activism and civic engagement in leadership. 

Adrianna Davis, the High School Program Manager with Passion Impact, explained why she enjoys her role within Passion Impact and what she takes away from it: “I think that youth and high school youth are really inspiring.” She continued to speak about the importance of being open minded and willing to learn, and how lucky she feels that she is able to work with high schoolers who are able to collaborate with other people and admit when they are wrong. She expresses that she wants to help kids find things they are passionate about, “before the world tells them they can’t.” 

How do you sign up and get involved? You are welcome to go to Passion Impact’s website. Once you have made it to the website, you will be prompted to make an account. From there you can simply join the Passion Impact page. When explaining what your responsibilities would be as a volunteer, it’s what you would expect in school. “Make sure to be respectful and that you’re staying engaged.” As a volunteer for Passion Impact, your responsibility is to hold and organize events around your community, as well as making sure everyone feels included. If you are not able to fully commit to being a volunteer for Passion Impact, there is a club at Franklin High School that anyone is welcome to join.  

Food Bank: 

The Food Bank is an organization that focuses on the hungry and makes sure that everyone has access to food no matter their situation. Their main goal is to end hunger as well as its root causes. 

Louise Skyler, a Client Navigator for the Food Bank, shares her story and background with food stamps (money given by the government for those with low income that is exchangeable for food), which provided  assistance with getting food on the table for her young family. “We had to apply for Food Stamps and back then, people were stigmatized if they were on Food Stamps,” explained Skyler. “I’ve never forgotten that experience and I believe no one should be ashamed to ask for help when they need food for their families.” She then spoke to the importance of Food Banks and said, “Food Banks are located all over Oregon and parts of Southwest Washington and their mission is to collect as well as distribute food to those in need.”

How do you sign up and get involved? The easiest way to get involved is by going to their website where it lists all of the volunteer opportunities they are hosting. If anyone is needing assistance, feel free to email volunteer@oregonfoodbank.org with any questions you might have. As a volunteer, the expectation is to show up. If you are unable to attend an event you must communicate beforehand and tell someone that you are needing to cancel. It’s important to show up with compassion, learning something new, and being willing to not only work hard but have fun too.  

Meals On Wheels:

Meals on Wheels is another nonprofit organization that focuses on providing nutritious food, human connections, and social support to those in need, specifically senior citizens. Their goal is to enhance the lives of elders as well as to help maintain independence within the senior population. Nick Price, the Human Resource Specialist at Meals on Wheels, shared why he is so passionate about his position, saying,“I feel it is important to give back to our seniors and ensure that no senior goes hungry or experiences social isolation.” He continued to explain that our senior citizens have gone through so much and have done so many good deeds for us that he feels it important to show his respect by helping them. 

How do you sign up and get involved? With times changing due to COVID-19, so has the process of volunteering. Price would like everyone to know that the signup process is completely virtual as of right now. If you are interested in giving back to our senior citizens as well as to our community, you can create an account and sign up for an upcoming virtual orientation. All this information is also provided at www.mowp.volunteerhub.com. After you have attended the orientation meeting, background checks will be sent out to all participants. Once they are approved, you are welcome to sign up for any upcoming volunteer opportunities. 

As a volunteer for this organization, your responsibilities may change based on the different positions you take on. 

Friends of Trees: 

Friends of Trees is a non-profit organization that brings people together to plant and take care of our green spaces all around the Pacific Northwest. Cary Aroonsuck, the Volunteer and Operations Administrator for Friends of Trees, stated, “What I love about Friends of Trees is witnessing how, with each individual effort, we have the ability to tackle larger issues through small, thoughtful actions like planting trees.” Small activities and actions like planting trees add up over time and with the help of volunteers, we are able to make a difference. “The better we are to this Earth, the better she is to us,” explained Aroonsuck.

How do you sign up and get involved? With COVID-19 still around, Friends of Trees are now requiring everyone to pre-register for all events as well as show proof of vaccination if eligible. If you are interested in signing up for an event, go to their website and find your way to the event calendar to view upcoming events. Once you have found an event you are interested in, click it. This should take you to the required registration form. 

As a volunteer, your responsibilities include keeping yourself and those around you safe while still managing to have fun. It is important to bring your completed Youth Waiver to the event. If you or any of your friends have any interest in learning more about environmental work within an urban setting, please feel free to reach out to volunteer@friendsoftrees.org. 

The volunteer opportunities listed in this article are only scratching the surface. If you have an interest not listed in this article, I encourage you to look into other organizations that specialize in the topics you’re passionate about. There are so many options available to individuals interested in getting involved. Volunteering is super important and offers great opportunities to find your passions, meet new people and give back to the community.

Leave a Reply