The gift of giving back: volunteer opportunities for the holiday season

Holiday consumerism got you down? Want to give back? You’re not alone. Every year, people around the city work together to help out those less fortunate while charitable organizations ramp up their efforts to help everyone have a safe and happy season. If you’re looking for ways to lend a hand, look no further. Read on for our list of ways to get involved in your community during the holidays, and remember while the supply of volunteers is especially high during the holiday season, the demand lasts all year. Help is needed and welcomed during every season.

Nat Murphy/PSU Vanguard

Potluck in the Park

Potluck in the Park, founded in 1991, is a local nonprofit organization which serves a free hot meal to anyone in need every Sunday in O’Bryant Square in downtown Portland. It is run entirely by volunteers, and all food is donated by individuals, businesses, organizations, and religious institutions.

Each year, Potluck in the Park hosts a Christmas dinner extravaganza, featuring free music and entertainment, cell phones for contact with loved ones, stockings and goodie bags, pictures with Santa and full turkey dinners Portland residents in need.

Volunteer registration for this year’s Dec. 24 Christmas Eve Dinner event is not yet open. Sign up for the Potluck in the Park newsletter to be notified when registration opens.

Have plans for Christmas Eve but still want to help out? Don’t despair! Potluck in the Park is always looking for volunteers and has 54 volunteer spots available each week: 50 in the park and four in the kitchen. Prospective volunteers should sign up in advance.

Oregon Food Bank

The Oregon Food Bank’s mission is “to eliminate hunger and its root causes…because no one should be hungry.” It functions as a coordinating agency for a network of 21 regional Oregon food banks. The OFB network provides food boxes for over 270,000 people in need each month.

Volunteer opportunities are generally one-time commitments of two to three hours and available for groupsfamilies and individuals. These opportunities include sorting, packing, labeling and other processing to prepare food for distribution; maintaining OFB’s learning gardens; and facilitating Seed to Supper vegetable gardening classes. Interested volunteers can also organize a Food & Fund Drive through OFB.

See on-campus opportunities for programs combatting Portland State student food insecurity.

Northwest Children’s Outreach

Northwest Children’s Outreach is a volunteer-run organization working to collect resources such as diapers, clothing, shoes, books, toys, formula and hygiene products and distributing them to caregiving organizations which work directly with children in need. Volunteer work includes sorting and packing orders, warehouse organizing and stocking, general office work and organizing donation drives and resource projects. Prospective volunteers can visit one of NCO’s four locations in the Portland-area for more information.

Lift Urban Portland

Lift Urban Portland is a local nonprofit founded in 1980 in Northwest Portland as a network of volunteers with the goal of supporting neighborhood residents. It now operates a food pantry and harvest share affiliated with the OFB, an “Adopt a Building” program and an annual Christmas dinner event. Prospective volunteers can apply to work with Lift Urban Portland online.

On-campus opportunities

Interested in giving back a little closer to home? Portland State hosts many volunteer opportunities. OFB collaborates with PSU on two programs combatting food insecurity: PSU Food Pantry and Harvest Share.

The food pantry, located in Smith Memorial Student Union 047A (in the basement between the quiet meditation lounge and the bowling alley), is open Monday through Friday 12:30-2:30 p.m. Associated Students of PSU collaborates with OFB to provide students a free food resource. Coordinators seek volunteers for staffing, stocking the pantry and among other needs, like advertising. Find volunteer opportunities by completing a PSU Food Pantry Volunteer Interest Form.

OFB also partners with PSU’s Committee for Improving Student Food Security to bring free fresh fruit and vegetables to the Park Blocks through Harvest Share. Students and members of the Portland community will find an abundance of food outside Shattuck Hall at noon on the second Monday of every month, rain or shine. The next two Harvest Shares are Dec. 11 and Jan. 8. Volunteers are always welcome, needed and get first pick at produce as a thank you for their time. Sign up on through the CISFS website.

And we can’t forget PSU’s very own Student Community Engagement Center. Located in SMSU M113C, SCEC facilitates a wide range of volunteer and community service opportunities, from the year-long Student Leaders for Service program to the one-term Mentors Advocating and Promoting Success Program to its one-time days of service, held once every few months.

Students with a specific vision can also work with a group through SCEC’s Serve Your City programs to build a tailor-made on or off-campus community service experience. For more information, contact SCEC at [email protected].

Want More?

None of these opportunities pique your interest? Never fear! The list of one-time and ongoing volunteer opportunities in the Portland area is simply too long for us to list in full. Citywide volunteer program Hands On Greater Portland is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to give back to the community. Its website features an event calendar as well as an advanced search function to help prospective volunteers find opportunities that fit their needs.