Volunteer Expo 2012

Yesterday, I attended the 2012 Volunteer Expo sponsored by The Standard in downtown Portland at the Pioneer Courthouse. What originally started as an event for The Standard employees to learn more about local volunteer opportunities has become so successful that it is now open to the entire community. What an amazing opportunity for folks who are interested in learning about volunteering in our community to directly connect with more than 125 non-profits.

My goal was to discover and learn about Portland non-profits that I wasn’t already familiar with in town.

Of course, there were a few that I knew well like Girl Scouts, Portland Children’s Museum as well as Dress for SuccessSCRAP and Portland Parks and Recreation. I also thanked Friends of the Trees for the work they have done in our community to plant trees. I appreciate those every time I bike on the Fanno Creek Trail near my house. All of these have wonderful volunteer opportunities.

When I approached the American Red Cross booth and the volunteer asked if I was interested in donating blood I sheepishly replied no. To which she shared that there are many other opportunities to help volunteer with them that don’t involve giving blood, like helping on a disaster relief event or even checking people in for blood drives. Regardless, there are a plethora of opportunities.

One of my favorite discoveries was Store to Door. Their mission is to facilitate independent living for Portland area seniors by providing low-cost, personalized grocery shopping and delivery service. They look for volunteers who will deliver groceries and makes sure the senior is safe and notices if other home care services are needed. Considering the fact that I have known the work of Loaves and Fishes for years I was surprised to learn about this wonderful additional service to provide seniors independence.

For another organization geared to seniors, I’d recommend you learn about the non-profit Elders in Action whose mission is to assure a vibrant community through active involvement of older adults. They offer events and a speakers bureau with an array of subjects and have meaningful volunteer opportunities for seniors.

The Portland Kitchen is a new emerging non-profit. The founders are hoping to create a comprehensive culinary after-school program for high school youth in the Portland metropolitan area. Earl Frederick was familiar with FareStart in Seattle that I wrote about last fall and hopes that his non-profit will have aspects of that very successful program. He is looking for partners, donations, equipment and sponsors to help him build this non-profit.

A second non-profit geared to high risk youth is PAL the Police Activity League (which despite the name does have a chapter in Beaverton as well). Their mission is to build a partnership between youth and police through multiple programs designed to develop good citizenship. They offer youth a safe place, allowing them to broaden their horizons and imagine a different future for themselves. They are always looking for coaches, tutors, fundraisers and event planners.

Trillium Family Services needs mentors to provide assistance to families in crisis. This may also include entire families. Their development director shared a story with me about a boy and his family that joined the program when the boy wanted to volunteer as part of a mitzvah project for his bar mitzvah. They continue to stay involved. The Albertina Kerr Centers continues to offer programs after more than 100 years in service to this community. They have an array of volunteer opportunities from executive chef to cashier, managers to sales people.

Ever wanted to go on a service learning program but don’t have a month or a year to devote to it. Well you are in luck, International Volunteers in Action (Ivia) offers international short-term programs designed to provide adults with opportunities to do volunteer service abroad in addition to sightseeing on their vacation. They recommend this as an option for a mile stone birthday or a family reunion. What an awesome opportunity for giving and celebrating. Definitely worth checking out!

Finally, the Partnership Scoop Shop was on hand to provide free scoops of Ben and Jerry’s when you got your CONNECT card stamped by five non-profits. It was a sweet win-win learning about new organizations and getting a delicious scoop of ice cream for the effort.

The Volunteer Expo reminded me why Portland is the second best city for volunteering in the country with nearly 37% of our population giving their time. With so many amazing non- profits in our city I hope anyone who hasn’t already found somewhere to give some of their valuable time will look into it.

If you need help figuring out where your skills and passions could best be used in a volunteer position, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to offer an assessment of your passions and needs and help make appropriate recommendations to help you find a meaningful and fulfilling volunteer opportunity.

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