Newcomer's Handbook Portland

Getting Involved

You’ve found a place to live, unpacked, and gotten settled into your new home. Now it’s time to get involved in the community. This chapter lists a variety of options for community involvement, from volunteering, to social clubs, to places of worship.

Community Involvement

Volunteering for an organization that does work you care about is a satisfying way to make a difference in your new community while at the same time meeting people who share similar interests.

Volunteer Matching and Placement

The following organizations coordinate many volunteer activities in the Portland area. Contact them and they will help you find an organization in need of your time and talents.

  • Clackamas County Volunteer Connection, 503-650-5779,, matches volunteers with volunteer opportunities from more than 200 community partners in Clackamas County.
  • Earth Share of Oregon, a federation of environmental nonprofit organizations, lists current volunteer opportunities on its website; call 503-223-9015 or visit for more information.
  • Hands on Greater Portland, 503-200-3355,, matches volunteers with 200 nonprofits and other community organizations in Multnomah and Clackamas counties.
  • Volunteer Connections, 360-694-6577,, coordinates volunteer matching in Clark County.
  • Volunteer Match,, allows you to search for volunteer opportunities by distance from any ZIP code.

In addition, the “Community” section of the Oregonian’s online classified section ( lists organizations that need volunteers for specific projects.

Area Causes

Portland has hundreds, if not thousands, of nonprofit organizations that provide a range of services, and many of them are in constant need of volunteer help. The following list is just a sample of the organizations that use volunteers; some have structured volunteer programs with training sessions and schedules, while others are grateful when you walk in off the street and help sort donated clothing for an hour. In addition to the organizations listed in this chapter, keep in mind that many of the community institutions listed elsewhere in this book rely on volunteers.

Note that you may be greeted with caution when you offer your services to an agency that deals directly with children. Don’t take it personally; since you care enough about children to volunteer in an after-school program or summer camp, you understand the agency’s duty to check your references and perhaps run a criminal background check.

If you have special skills (legal or medical training; experience with web design, desktop publishing, writing and editing, or accounting; a license to drive large trucks and buses; or a background in catering and the know-how to prepare meals for 400 people), be sure to mention them. Don’t be shy. Any nonprofit organization will be happy to hear from you.

Aids and HIV

Alcohol and Drug Dependency

  • Lines for Life, 5100 SW Macadam Ave, Suite 400, 503-244-5211, 800-282-7035,


Children and Youth

Besides the organizations listed below (and other nonprofits focused on children and youth), almost any public school will have volunteer opportunities.

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest, 1827 NE 44th Ave, Suite 100, 503-249-4859,
  • Boys and Girls Aid Society, 018 SW Boundary Ct, 503-222-9661,
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area, 7119 SE Milwaukie Ave, 503-232-0077,
  • Children’s Home Society of Washington, 206-695-3200, 800-456-3339,
  • I Have a Dream Oregon, 2916 NE Alberta St, Suite D, 503-287-7203,
  • Janus Youth Programs, 707 NE Couch St, 503-233-6090,
  • R.E.A.P. (Reaching and Empowering All People), 503-688-2784,
  • Schoolhouse Supplies, 2735 NE 82nd Ave, 503-249-9933,

Culture and the Arts

Practically every institution listed in the Cultural Life chapter relies to some extent on volunteers. The Regional Arts and Culture Council (411 NW Park Ave, Suite 101, 503-823-5111, lists volunteer opportunities on its website.


  • Disability Rights Oregon, 610 SW Broadway, Suite 200, 503-243-2081,
  • Independent Living Resources, 1839 NE Couch St, 503-232-7411,
  • Special Olympics Oregon, 5901 SW Macadam Ave, Suite 200, 503-248-0600,


Gay and Lesbian

Health and Hospitals

Most hospitals and community clinics welcome volunteers; just give the nearest institution a call, or contact one of the following organizations:

  • African American Health Coalition, 2800 N Vancouver Ave, Suite 100, 503-413-1850,
  • American Red Cross, Oregon Chapters, 3131 N Vancouver Ave, 503-284-1234,

Hunger, Homelessness, and Poverty

International Relief and Development

  • Medical Teams International, 14150 SW Milton Ct, Tigard, 503-624-1000, 800-959-4325,
  • Mercy Corps, 45 SW Ankeny St, 503-896-5000, 800-292-3355,


Mentoring and Career Development


In addition to the various large and small political parties that are active in the area, Portland has many nominally nonpartisan political organizations, most of which are focused on one or more particular issues (the environment, gay rights, homelessness, etc.) and are thus listed in the appropriate section. The City Club of Portland (901 SW Washington St, 503-228-7231, is a nonpartisan—but well-connected—group that focuses on public affairs.

Refugees and Immigrants

  • Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, 10301 NE Glisan St, 503-234-1541,
  • Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees (SOAR), 2906 NE Glisan St, 503-284-3002,


Women’s Services

  • Bradley-Angle House, 5432 N Albina Ave, 503-232-1528,
  • Portland Women’s Crisis Line, 503-232-9751,
  • Sexual Assault Resource Center, 4900 SW Griffith Dr, Suite 100, Beaverton, 503-626-9100,

Charitable Giving

Not everyone can give time or talent to a good cause. Another way to help is to donate something that virtually every charity needs: money. Before donating, consider checking out the charity’s fiscal responsibility and its ratio of overhead to program spending; if the charity spends 95% of its money on fundraising efforts and overhead and 5% on program delivery, you might want to pass. Third-party watchdog sites like Charity Navigator (, Guidestar (, or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance ( can help you assess a charity’s performance.

Meeting People

As a rule, Portlanders are friendly and not particularly reticent; you can usually start a conversation with a stranger without being immediately suspected of having an ulterior motive, and people you meet in social settings are more likely than not to be chatty (sometimes unnervingly so). That said, as a newcomer, it’s not always easy to meet people with similar interests. Volunteer organizations (see “Community Involvement” above), cultural events (see Cultural Life), recreational sports clubs (see Sports and Recreation), and, for the spiritually inclined, religious groups (see “Places of Worship” below) are all excellent places to meet new friends. The arts and entertainment papers (see “What’s Going On?” in Cultural Life) are full of event listings. Dating and matchmaking services, let alone online social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, are beyond the scope of this book, but the following are some suggestions for making friends and meeting people in your new home.

Alumni Groups

Most local, regional, and large national colleges and universities have alumni groups in Portland. If there’s no organized alumni group, you should be able to find other graduates of your school living in the area. Check with your alma mater’s alumni or development office, or just wait around: eventually, they’ll find you.

Business Groups

If you have a particular professional focus, there is probably a business group for you. Most of these groups exist in whole or in part for networking purposes, so social events are usually frequent.

Political Groups

Whether you’re a government-out-of-my-hemisphere Libertarian or a fist-pounding Trotskyite, or even if your political leanings fall somewhere in between those extremes, you’re bound to find a simpatico political group in town. If you hate politics, consider founding a Portland Apathy Association—assuming you can be bothered.

Outdoor Adventures

Several organizations, including Portland Parks and Recreation, organize outdoor adventures—hikes, snowshoe treks, rafting trips, and more. You can often find out about trips by checking out the bulletin boards of sporting goods stores. The Mazamas (527 SE 43rd Ave, 503-227-2345, and the Trails Club of Oregon (503-233-2740, maintain very active calendars of outdoor events.

Special Interests

It seems like every niche interest has a club, from the Portland Skyliners Tall Club (503-222-7373, for women over 5’10” and men over 6’2” to the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Kingdom of An Tir ( for medieval re-creationists (and recreationists). (Would-be knights or damsels of above-average height can go wild and join both clubs!) Just do a web search for your favorite interest or characteristic, or even your favorite celebrity, and you’re bound to come up with something.

For a calendar of upcoming meetings from clubs and groups of all kinds, check out the listings at; just type in your ZIP code, type in a subject, and you’ll likely have dozens of options to choose from.

Places of Worship

The Pacific Northwest is, by some measures, the most unchurched region in the United States. A low rate of weekly church attendance, however, does not translate to a lack of spirituality or an absence of places of worship. The Portland area has hundreds of houses of worship representing every major faith and denomination (and a host of minor ones, too). If you are at all religiously inclined, you’ll almost certainly be able to find a spiritual home.

If you belong to a congregation in your old hometown, your religious leader might be able to refer you to a kindred congregation in Portland. In addition to web resources, the Yellow Pages has extensive listings under “Churches,” “Synagogues,” and “Mosques”; the church listings are organized by denomination and include sections for nondenominational, interdenominational, and independent churches as well as metaphysical centers.

The following interfaith agencies, representing congregations working together to address hunger, homelessness, and other urban problems, also might be able to refer you to a congregation that fulfills your spiritual needs:

  • Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, 0245 SW Bancroft St, Suite B, 503-221-1054,
  • Interfaith Council of Greater Portland, 3956 NE Couch St, 503-238-1155,

The list of resources below is by no means complete, and it is not a substitute for the Yellow Pages or newspaper listings, but it includes local and regional societies or associations for a range of religious groups.

Alternative Worship—New Age Spirituality, Paganism, and More

For a comprehensive guide to New Age spiritual centers, Ayurveda, meditation, mysticism, and other spiritual resources, visit the website for New ConneXion magazine ( or pick up a free copy at area libraries, bookstores, or natural food stores. Wiccans, pagans, and other adherents of really old-time religion currently lack a local umbrella organization, but a web search for whatever strain of spirituality/paganism you’re interested in should reveal a group or two in the area.



Various sects of Buddhism are represented in the Portland area, but there is no overarching resource dedicated to Portland Buddhists collectively. The Seattle-based Northwest Dharma Association (206-441-6811, also covers Portland-area groups and events.


The following major denominations have an organized local or regional presence. Independent and nondenominational churches are, by definition, not part of a denomination, and so have no collective regional organization; the same is true for many small denominations with relatively few adherents in the area, as well as some larger groups, such as Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, which are governed from a national headquarters.


The worldwide Apostolic Faith Church (503-777-1741, is headquartered in the Woodstock neighborhood of Southeast Portland.

Assemblies of God

  • Oregon Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God, 503-393-4411,


  • American Baptist Churches of the Central Pacific Coast, 503-228-8394,
  • CB Northwest, 503-669-1515, (Conservative Baptist)
  • Northwest Baptist Convention, 360-882-2100, (Southern Baptist)


Church of God

  • Association of the Churches of God, 503-393-3510, 800-873-7729,

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)

The Mormons are one of the largest denominations in Oregon. There are many local churches scattered around the area. The regional Temple (13600 SW Kruse Oaks Blvd, Lake Oswego, 503-639-7066, is hard to miss: its giant marble spires loom just west of Interstate 5 near the Highway 217 interchange.

Emerging Churches

So-called “emerging churches” are nondenominational, often loosely organized, and definitely non-hierarchical. Services take place in schools, community centers, or even pubs. Here are a few local examples.


Friends (Quakers)

Several Society of Friends groups meet in the local area. The Multnomah Monthly Meeting (503-232-2822, encompasses some (but not all) local Friends worship groups.


  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Oregon Synod, 503-413-4191,
  • Northwest District of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, 503-288-8383, 888-693-5267,


  • Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference, 503-522-5324, 888-492-4216,


  • Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church, 503-226-7931, 800-593-7539,


  • Oregon Pacific District of the Church of the Nazarene, 503-581-3950,


  • Pacific Northwest Deanery, Diocese of the West, The Orthodox Church in America, 415-567-9378,


Seventh-Day Adventist

Unitarian Universalist

  • Pacific Northwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association, 425-957-9116,

United Church of Christ

  • Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ, 503-228-3178,


Gay and Lesbian Spiritual Groups

The Community of Welcoming Congregations (503-665-8741, is an association of more than 100 congregations in Oregon and southwest Washington that welcome worshipers of all sexual orientations and gender identities.


There is no centralized source of information on Hinduism in Portland. Two good places to look into are the Vedanta Society of Portland (1157 SE 55th Ave, 503-235-3919,, which is a branch of the Ramakrishna Order of India, and the Portland Hindu Temple (Brahma Premananda Ashram), 11515 SW Hall Blvd, Tigard, 503-598-3073,


The Islamic Society of Greater Portland ( sponsors social and community events for members of the local Muslim community; its website includes links to local mosques and Islamic schools.



The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland (6680 SW Capitol Hwy, 503-245-6219, is a great resource for the Jewish community. The organization’s comprehensive website lists local events and contains links to Jewish resources, agencies, camps, schools, and congregations, including Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Sephardic, and unaffiliated congregations in the metropolitan area and elsewhere in the Northwest.

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