Recently, I was talking with a friend about funny things that have happened to me while volunteering. For example, there was that time a gust of wind swept a giant Styrofoam crucifix out of someone’s hands and into my head. It knocked me down, and needless to say, kept me in the line of fire for some pretty amazing jokes. Ashamedly, it has been too long since I last donated time to a good cause, and getting back on the wagon can be intimidating.
Discussing the topic of volunteering with friends has revealed something interesting. In my age group of 25-35 year olds there are rampant excuses, and loads of misinformation leading to a lack of action in our community. Asking around I hear a lot of the same things.
“I hear there’s a huge waiting list to volunteer there, and it requires a lot of hours. It’s basically like having a job.”
Okay, in my research for this, none of the places I contacted had a waiting list to volunteer. If for some reason you come across an organization that miraculously has too many hands trying to work for free, move on to the next one. Most of the groups I spoke with would love to have more volunteers, and offer time commitments at many different levels.
Here are my top picks for easy-approach quick-turnaround volunteering.
HANDS ON GREATER PORTLAND | HANDSONPORTLAND.ORG
This is a wonderful organization. Go to the website and click on “Ways to Volunteer.” You can read a brief explanation on how it all works, and yes, 2 – 4 hour single time commitments are even possible. There’s no experience required for some of their opportunities, and the whole process is positive from beginning to end.
They work with too many organizations to list, but seniors, cats, bikes, kids, and queers are all there. For opportunities working with vulnerable members of our community (i.e. kids and seniors) expect a background check. Keeping them safe from harm is a top priority.
VOLUNTEERMATCH | VOLUNTEERMATCH.ORG
The more I time I spend on their site, the more of a “wow” factor I feel. Basically, their whole purpose is to make matches between groups in need of help and volunteers with busy lives. Once you register with them at VolunteerMatch.org, you can immediately get paired with something just right for you. They’ve made over 6,000,000 referrals, and host very useful free web seminars full of information on who they are, volunteering in general, and the organizations with whom they partner. I really had a “welcome to the future” moment on their website.
THE Q CENTER | PDXQCENTER.ORG
Portland’s LGBTQ Community Center, located on Mississippi Avenue, is a great resource for all things Q. Whether you want to volunteer directly for them, or another program such as SMYRC — an LGBTQ youth program, helping is simpler than you’d think. I went in and spoke to a front desk volunteer named Michael Lecker. He’s a PhD student that wanted to get involved at a local level, and emailed Q Center through their volunteer link. In two days he had a brief interview scheduled that quickly landed him a part-time desk position.
He also said that nonscheduled volunteering is easy too. You can work various one-time events, and I recalled the intense mayoral Q&A some weeks ago, and regretted not volunteering for it. For those who did not attend, let’s just say that the candidates were very colorful, and a few were downright entertaining.
If Michael is an example of the kind of person that volunteers for the Q Center, then I want to be there too. You don’t have to look far to see the great amount of good they do in the community, and being a part of that is one email away.
THE PIXIE PROJECT | PIXIEPROJECT.ORG
What Portlander doesn’t want to volunteer with animals? The Pixie Project runs a newly expanded atypical animal shelter with amazing pet owner support, and a fully stocked non-profit pet supply store. They do pet-to-owner matchmaking, and have some of the most positive attitudes I’ve encountered in this kind of work. From their website you can get info on volunteering. Some of these opportunities include dog walking and working in their cattery. A cattery? Me-wow!
I’m impressed by how easy and positive talking to these organizations was. Thanks to everyone who got back to me with information. I think it’s pretty clear that any laidback Portlander can easily lend a hand.
About Lyska Mondor
Lyska Mondor writes regularly for Just Out. She is a published poet and aspiring sci-fi author.