Plug in, turn on, get engaged and volunteer

Muhammad Ali once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” That quote couldn’t be more telling during these hard times. Street Roots along with hundreds of other nonprofits across the city rely on community support in the form of volunteering to make their organizations the best they can be.

It’s important for all us to work towards marrying the changing demographics of our city with the many organizations working to make a difference. There’s no question that with the ever-increasing need, coupled with government decreasing its ability to deliver any number of important services, from the environment to animals to human beings, Portland has its work cut out for it.

Lucky for us, Portland appears to be up to the challenge. But let’s not take that for granted. Last year, Portland ranked second in the country in corporate volunteering in the annual Corporate Volunteer Challenge. Many small and large businesses are engaged in giving back to their community through their own networking and through groups such as Volunteers of America and the United Way.

Also, Portlanders are fortunate to have an organization such as Hands On Greater Portland to plug into the wealth of volunteer opportunities in the region. The staff there will connect you with programs that need your help, whether it’s for a day, a week or a lifetime. Whatever your passion, there is a place for you to lend your expertise or elbow grease to improve our community. Volunteering is a door to meeting new friends, getting your family involved and having fun.

On the political grassroots front, groups such as the Oregon Bus Project are building something special to engage young people for real change. Working to mobilize thousands of volunteers and activists around Portland and the state. They make volunteering fun — getting young people engaged in the policies that are important to all of us.

From a giving perspective, the Willamette Week Give!Guide is a prime example of creating something fun and engaging to encourage young people and the larger community to give. Last year, the weekly newspaper nearly raised $1 million for non-profits in the area and this year is hoping to exceed that number by using its publication as a platform to give back.

Look at any one of these programs in a vacuum and you might think, “that’s cool, but is it really changing things?” Look at all of these programs as a whole, and you realize the power of volunteering and what it really means in our community. The impact hits on many levels. It not only means making light work with many hands, it also brings people together, from all backgrounds and experiences. It bridges generational, economic and ethnic gaps, and makes our city more resilient to face the pressures ahead.

Ask a volunteer about the work they do and you’ll most likely hear that they get more out of it than they give. It’s so true. So yes, you’re paying for your room here on Earth, but it’s an investment that pays dividends for you, your neighbors and people who will say thank you. Thank you.

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