Not only is Thanksgiving the day when we each set aside our busy lives to come together and be thankful for the blessings in our lives (toping my list this year are family, self-employment and Halo Reach), but it has also become a day of giving back to our community and reaching out to share our blessings with others.
Often, we see the national and international troubles on the nightly news and wish that there was something that we could do to help. We forget though that there are people in need right here Portland. Not only is volunteering in our local community easier to do than solving an international crisis, but it can also be more rewarding as we are given the chance to see firsthand the results of our efforts.
If you and your family are looking to volunteer for Thanksgiving in Portland, here are some great local events and opportunities for you to get involved.
Give n’ Gobble Walk/Run & Food Drive
When: Thanksgiving Day
Where: Sherwood High School Stadium
16956 Southwest Meinecke Road; Sherwood, Oregon 97140
If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity this Thanksgiving that is as good for you as it is for your community, then sign up for The Give n’ Gobble 5k Run/Walk or 10k run. Benefiting the Helping Hands Food Bank (an Oregon Food Bank affiliate), the Give n’ Gobble raises money to offset the cost of running Helping Hands and provides a drop-off point for non-perishable foods to be given to local families in need.
Even if you aren’t up for walking or running this year the Give n’ Gobble is in need of volunteers to help guide participants, collect food and help with registration. If you would like to register your family to burn off some of those pumpkin pie calories in the run/walk, or if you are interested in other ways to volunteer in this Thanksgiving Day event, go to http://www.givengobble.com for more information.
When: November 20th through November 24th, 2010
Where: Grocery stores throughout the Portland Metro Area
One of the few Thanksgiving volunteer events that span all of Portland, Donate Dinner is a fundraiser to support the Meals-On-Wheels program. Put on by the Loaves & Fishes Centers, the event encourages volunteers to pass out information at the entrances of grocery stores (New Seasons Market, Thriftway, Haggen, Whole Foods and more) to let shoppers know about the Donate Dinner program. As shoppers check out, they are given the opportunity to add the cost of a dinner for a local senior to their shopping total.
Celebrating their 40th year, Loaves and Fishes Centers serves nearly 25,000 meals a week to seniors living throughout Portland and its neighboring communities. Whether you would like to volunteer for Donate Dinner this Thanksgiving, or you’re interested in volunteering any time of year for the Meals-On-Wheels program, contact Tearesa Hasselmann at (503)953-8132 or go to www.donatedinner.org for more information.
When: November 13th
Where: Columbia Land Trust, Vancouver, Washington
The Northwest is most widely known for our lush, green forests and our eco-friendly atmosphere. Just across the river in Vancouver, Washington, the Columbia Land Trust is focused on keeping our forests growing and building relationships within our communities. With a scheduled tree planting just a few days before Thanksgiving, Columbia Land Trust offers opportunities for individuals and groups to get outdoors and have fun in the Columbia River area.
Whether you’re interested in monitoring the growth of past plantings, creating a backyard habitat, or planting trees to keep the Columbia River green then contact Columbia Land Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org or head to their website www.columbialandtrust.org to find out how you can be involved in keeping the Northwest flourishing for hundreds of Thanksgivings to come.
Make a Blood Donation
When: Dates throughout November
Where: Various sites throughout Portland and its neighboring communities
One area where there is always a need is within local blood banks. Although many blood banks accept monetary donations to help cover their cost of operation, most of them are more interested in donors who volunteer to give up a pint of blood. The American Red Cross is arguably the most widely known blood bank, and regardless of whether you’re staying home this Thanksgiving or traveling to spend time with family and friends, chances are that there is a donation site near you.
With blood collection sites all over, making an appointment to donate blood is easy at www.redcrossblood.org/make-donation. If you want to volunteer your time beyond Thanksgiving, be sure to check their website www.redcrossblood.org for other volunteer opportunities as well.
How you decide to give back this Thanksgiving is entirely up to you, but I know that if you choose to spend your time working with one of these groups you will be left with feelings of hope, accomplishment and humbleness. One thing that I rediscover whenever I spend time serving others is how rewarding it is to give back. It is rare that I leave a volunteer event without having met someone interesting, felt the warmth of genuine thanks and seen the smile of someone who has benefited from the efforts of the many programs in Portland.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank those of you who volunteer your time and skills to put on these and other programs that help keep our communities healthy. If this is your first time volunteering for Thanksgiving and you’re a little nervous, then thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone long enough to make a difference. The challenges and rewards of volunteering are infectious, and I know it’s something that will change your life and the lives of others forever.
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