: Cheryl Juetten

Give Your Heart to Oregon

Give back to the state we love with these awesome ways to pitch in.
January 24, 2022 (Updated January 20, 2023)

We heart Oregon. To celebrate statehood each year on February 14 — and year-round — let’s give back to this big, gorgeous state we all adore. By volunteering, we can do our part to support the fantastic people, places and wildlife that call Oregon home.

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Check Out Opportunities With Oregon State Parks

Oregon State Parks, which encompasses 245 parks, is one of the most visited state park systems in the U.S. Throughout the year you can take advantage of any of the parks’ scheduled public events — from guided nature hikes to cave tours. In fact, the Fort Rock Cave Tour is a unique opportunity, the only way the public can access this National Historic Landmark — the site of archaeological discoveries dating back to 10,000 years. The Fort Rock Basin is a vital part of Native American history and life so pets are not allowed, and the tour involves walking at least ¾ mile on uneven, dusty terrain. Just a few tours ($20 per person) are offered each year, with limited spaces, so be sure to sign up early. Fort Rock is in a remote area, about 70 miles south of Bend. 

Guided nature hikes are offered regularly at popular destinations like Tryon Creek State Natural Area in Portland, designed for all ages. Naturalists lead hikers along the trails and talk about the park’s trees, plants and wildlife. These events are free and no signups are required, unless traveling in a group of 10 or more.

 

 

 

Skiers at the top of a ski slope at night
Taking a guided tour is one of the best ways to show your love for Oregon. Local guides help you make meaningful connections to the people and places you visit, and often include stewardship work to leave the place better than you found it. Courtesy of Nate Wyeth / Wanderlust Tours

Preserve Central Oregon’s Caves

Some of Oregon’s most incredible destinations are deep underground. Oregon’s caves are a unique attraction in the high desert – more than 813 in Deschutes county alone – and home for protected and vulnerable creatures like bats and other native species. Join Bend-based Wanderlust Tours for a safe guided cave tour while removing trash and graffiti from sensitive habitats. Pre-registration and a suggested donation of $30 are all you need to join. They’ll provide everything else, including a helmet, headlamp, bucket, and trash bags, as well as transportation to and from the cave site from Bend, Oregon. Caves aren’t your thing? Check back throughout the year for voluntour events at various sites in Central Oregon.

While you’re visiting, consider checking out the Bend Sustainability Fund, a grant program that funds projects that protect, steward and create sustainable recreational resources and outdoor experiences in Bend’s backyard. You’ll be supporting responsible tourism in these wild spaces we all love, and supporting those “free” services you enjoy on local trails, parks and other public spaces.

Two people hold two bottles of wine
Oregon winemakers are growing diversity in the industry every day, and there are lots of ways visitors can support the effort. Courtesy of One Barrel Challenge

Support Diversity in the Oregon Wine Industry 

Oregon’s wine-growing regions have the world’s attention, and we love to visit them. Still, diversity in the winemaking industry is notably limited. Historically, racial-exclusion laws discouraged Black Americans and other minorities from settling in Oregon, much less owning agricultural land. This troubling past doesn’t have to be Oregon’s future. You can support Oregon’s growing list of Black-owned and other minority-owned wineries by visiting tasting rooms and ordering wine online. Or buy from the One Barrel Challenge, a collective of wineries working to make Oregon’s wine industry more accessible and inclusive to marginalized and underrepresented youth by providing mentorship and scholarships.

Recently, an Oregon coalition organization called Our Legacy Harvested has been working to educate, advance and empower the BIPOC community in the wine industry though hands-on internships with winemakers. “Bringing the vision of educating, advancing and empowering the BIPOC community in the wine industry to life through our internship program is exactly what we’ve been working towards,” says Tiquette Bramlett, founder of Our Legacy Harvested. “Supporting entrepreneurship and education will help individuals at any career level advance in this industry.” Bramlett is also president of Compris Vineyard in Newberg and the first Black woman hired to oversee a winery in the United States.

Consider supporting the efforts by volunteering for upcoming block party efforts or other events.

A group of masked people hold large trash bags
Gather with your favorite people and consider taking part in a local cleanup of a neighborhood, roadside, waterway or beach. Courtesy of SOLVE

All Together, Keep Oregon Clean

SOLVE hold Oregon’s Annual Statewide Spring Cleanup event each year in April. That’s right, statewide — events all across the great state. It’s a perfect reason to spend the day outside picking up debris on beaches, mountains, trails and parks. Participate in one of the many events already scheduled — or create your own event to add to the public roster. 

Can’t make it to the main event? SOLVE has cleanups scheduled year-round, including monthly litter removal on Seaside’s wide beach and Portland’s downtown. And remember, anytime you’re out in Oregon’s great wide open, take a bag and spend your last five minutes picking up trash. A five-minute cleanup makes all the difference. 

Bring Music to Rural Youth in Eastern Oregon

Musicians can make a big difference, too. Make a meaningful gift or volunteer to support Pendleton-based Oregon East Symphony and help enhance musical-arts education for students in this rural area. A volunteer Board of Directors leads the symphony’s youth program, Playing for Keeps, for musical youth in Pendleton and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation schools. Volunteers and staff provide year-round music instruction, personalized mentorship, and chamber and orchestral performance opportunities.

A woman pets a cat
Who doesn't love hanging out with a furry friend? Check out your local pet shelter to give back to your community. Courtesy of Southern Oregon Humane Society

Spend Time With Homeless Pets 

Did you know you can volunteer to spend time with sweet, whiskery faces across the state? The Southern Oregon Humane Society in Medford, for example, serves approximately 1,600 companion animals a year and always needs shelter-cat companions and dog walkers. Young volunteers can even spend time reading to dogs or cats in the shelter to help them socialize with people. The Humane Society’s staff not only provide quality care for unhoused pets, they travel to shelters across the state, saving dogs and cats that would otherwise be euthanized. Check out all the organization’s full list of volunteer opportunities

Deliver Meals in Southern Oregon

Housing insecurity and mental health and addiction issues are widespread in both rural and urban areas of Oregon. In Jackson and Josephine counties, Rogue Retreat provides hope and a roof to more than 300 people nightly with a variety of housing options ranging from shared housing to subsidized apartments to shelters and tents. The organization is always looking for donors of time and money to support shelter meals. Check out the program’s volunteer opportunities and supply wish list for more information.

About The
Author

Amanda Calnan Vowels
Amanda Calnan Vowels is a Portland-based journalist whose career started in daily, print newsrooms of the Pacific Northwest. Living overseas as an expatriate with young children gave her a deeper appreciation for the remarkable spaces and stories of their native Oregon. Amanda's best days are spent chronicling top Northwest spots and encouraging family travel of all types and budgets.

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