Building Community! Volunteering with Kids in Portland


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See a need, fill a need! Volunteering in the community instills a sense of pride, compassion, and confidence in both kids and adults. Plant trees and watch Portland’s canopy grow, clean children’s books so every kid becomes a reader, or cook up soup to offer hungry neighbors! Scroll through these local volunteer opportunities with your favorite little helper and together we can strengthen community and foster a new generation that’s grown on compassion and stewardship.

photo: Kelli Martinelli

Oregon Food Bank
Everyone needs food. But not everyone has access to food. This is the problem. Oregon Food Bank is a local, community-centered solution that provides healthy food to hungry neighbors in Portland. At Oregon Food Bank kids 6 and older can work together with grown-ups by packing staples like beans, rice, pasta, and fruits to be distributed throughout the area to individuals and families who otherwise lack access to healthy, nourishing foods. Making meals, making memories, and making an impact. Sounds like a trifecta of goodness, doesn’t it? Volunteering with the Oregon Food Bank creates the opportunity for hands-on engagement in helping kids (and adults!) understand food scarcity and the economics of poverty. Just imagine what the world might be like if we all worked harder to try to feed one another! Check out the Oregon Food Bank calendar for upcoming opportunities.


photo: SOLVE/Amanda Conde

No one likes seeing garbage on the side of the road, or even worse, on our beaches and green spaces! Yuck. And though siblings might complain about having to clean up a mess that someone else made (ahem), the reality is we all need to chip in to keep our parks, beaches, bike paths, and shared spaces clean. SOLVE has community clean up events from Vancouver to West Linn and everywhere in between. Pull on some gloves, and let’s take a stroll with SOLVE, cleaning up Portland a neighborhood at a time. Some events have minimum age requirements, but many are open to all ages. Register here for an upcoming SOLVE event in your neighborhood.


photo: Kelli Martinelli

Friends of Trees
Did you know that Portland is the only city in the United States with an urban tree canopy that’s actually getting bigger? Basically that means that Portlanders are planting more trees than we’re pulling, which is great news for everybody because trees help create habitat, provide shade and water retention, and keep our oxygen circulating. Yay for trees and breathing! Yay for Friends of Trees for making it happen! Check out the Friends of Trees planting schedule and find a planting event in your own neighborhood, or bring your kids to a planting in a part of town you’d like to get to know better. Trees are the gift that keep on growing!


Store to Door
Children can join their parents on Wednesdays and Thursdays at local Fred Meyer stores to personally shop on behalf of someone who can’t grocery shop for themselves. Store to Door coordinates volunteer shoppers with seniors and adults with disabilities so that they can live independently and fill their cupboards with the groceries that they need. Volunteering with Store to Door is like a scavenger hunt! Kids will enjoy the process of strolling the aisles, searching for the next item to put in the cart. By helping fulfill someone else’s grocery list, they become connected to the needs of others.


photo: Kelli Martinelli

Free Hot Soup
Winter’s coming, let’s get cooking! Free Hot Soup delivers hot meals to hungry neighbors in the Portland community, most of whom live outside and are faced with enormous obstacles for meeting their day to day needs. With cold weather fast approaching, Free Hot Soup will be looking for more volunteers to prepare soup, sandwiches, and other satisfying grab-n-go meals. This is an ideal opportunity for families with kids of all ages to have an immediate impact in a neighbor’s life, and you don’t even need to leave your kitchen. Reach out to Free Hot Soup on Facebook, let them know you’d like to cook up some soup (or sandwiches! or burritos! or fresh hot rolls!), and a coordinator will respond to coordinate pick up of the scrumptious eats that you and your sidekicks cooked up!

Online: Free Hot Soup (Portland) and Free Hot Soup (Vancouver)

Transition Projects
Jackets and beanies and gloves, oh my! Ask your child to help you organize a neighborhood drive for warm clothing and cold weather essentials for Portlanders in need. Print out a wishlist from Transition Projects and start gathering items. Go door to door with your kids to ask neighbors if they might have wishlist items to donate. Teach kids about using social media for a good cause by utilizing platforms like Next Door, or neighborhood Facebook groups, in order to gather items locally. A cold weather drive can help nurture leadership skills in children as they learn how to see a need and fill a need using the resources that are in our own neighborhoods (and closets)! Donations can be dropped off 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Northwest Portland
665 NW Hoyt St., Portland, OR

Northeast Portland/Hansen Shelter
12240 NE Glisan St., Portland, OR

Southeast Portland/Willamette Center
5120 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland OR

Children’s Book Bank
Every child should have access to books. But in many low-income neighborhoods, there is only one book for every 300 kids! The Children’s Book Bank is a well-loved community resource for eradicating the gap between those who have books, and those who don’t. Donated books are cleaned and restored by volunteers ages 6 and up, and then they’re thoughtfully distributed to children who need them. Volunteer with your kids, encourage a well-read community, and have fun giving love to books so that they can continue to give love back.

1915 NE 7th Ave, Portland, OR

There’s always a way to help make our Portland community stronger, healthier, and more beautiful! See a need, fill a need, and share the love.

Share with us your ideas and resources for volunteering with your kids, and let’s grow a better Portland, together! Leave your ideas in the comments below.

—Kelli Martinelli

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