: Wanderlust Tours

Guide to Volunteering in Oregon

March 16, 2020 (Updated June 9, 2020)

Here in Oregon, stewardship is one of our core values. In the face of a worldwide health crisis, it’s easy to feel helpless. But the fact is, there are plenty of ways that we can come to the aid of our neighbors.

Healthy individuals may donate blood to the American Red Cross, which is facing a shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this COVID-19 outbreak. Help older Americans receive food by donating money or volunteering to deliver through your local Meals On Wheels chapter. The Oregon Food Bank is asking for donations and encouraging people under the age of 60 to volunteer for individual shifts. Check with churches, county food banks and school districts in your area to see if they need an extra hand in distributing food to those in need. Purchase gift cards online for your favorite restaurants to help small business owners who’ve been forced to temporarily close their doors or switch to takeout only. Read on to see more ways Oregonians are making an impact during this uncertain time.

It’s also a monumental time for the nation’s black communities. For those wanting to help the social justice movement on a local level, consider volunteering your time with the Urban League of Portland, the Portland Branch of the NAACP and the Black United Fund of Oregon or making a charitable donation to community advocacy groups. Other service-based organizations with volunteer opportunities include: Camp ELSO, which uses nature to introduce children to STEAM principles; Black Futures Farm, part of the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition; and Feed the Mass, providing free meals to Portland communities.

When it’s safe to travel again, keep that feeling of goodwill going by combining your vacation with a volunteering opportunity. Here are several ways to give your time and help keep Oregon truly special.

Kids collecting trash at the beach
SOLVE organizes various beach and river cleanup days throughout the year where volunteers can help pick up 50,000 pounds of trash in a single day. (Photo by SOLVE)

If You Have a Day

Clean up a beach

If you plan to enjoy any of Oregon’s 363 miles of Pacific coastline, why not help keep it trash-free? SOLVE organizes numerous events across the state each year including its annual fall beach and riverside cleanup (Sept. 19, 2020), when about 5,500 volunteers typically remove more than 28,000 pounds of trash in one day. The Nature Conservancy also hosts cleanup days along waterways and in nature areas around the state.

Clean up a cave

Caves need cleaning, too … really. Don a helmet and headlamp and join Wanderlust Tours for a yearly lava tube cleanup and periodic graffiti cleanups along China Hat Road southeast of Bend. Work typically focuses on the area around cave mouths but sometimes includes the inside of caves, so dress in layers. Other opportunities in Central Oregon include Smith Rock Spring Thing cleanup day, Central Oregon Trail Alliance work parties, Deschutes Land Trust projects and Deschutes River Cleanup day. Call ahead to see which events will be happening in 2020, and be sure to follow social-distancing practices while participating. 

Educate beachgoers

Need more flexibility? Consider volunteering a day for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach. There’s no experience necessary. Volunteers receive instruction on how to educate visitors about responsible ways to enjoy Haystack Rock and its surrounding tide pools. For more on protecting Oregon’s marine reserves, click here.

Two elderly people riding in a golf cart collecting trash
Spend time helping to clean up a part of the beautiful state. When you care and contribute to the place that you’re visiting, your time is ultimately more meaningful and memorable. (Photo by Oregon State Parks)

If You Have a Week

Work on a farm

Not afraid to get your hands dirty? Then WWOOFing may be for you. WWOOF — Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms — brings together volunteers and owners of organic farms and gardens for an educational and cultural exchange. About 125 farms across the state participate, raising everything from hazelnuts to marionberries to alpacas. Volunteers agree to work four to six hours each day; guests typically stay for five days. In return, volunteers receive free meals and accommodations. By working only half days, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the small towns and natural attractions in Oregon’s countryside. Some farms even allow children, so the entire family can experience life on the farm, getting a firsthand look at the food-to-table process. To become a WWOOF volunteer, you’ll need to sign up online and pay a yearly membership fee.

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Family helping out on a farm collecting carrots
Volunteers get to experience a farm stay with WWOOF and guest typically get free meals and accommodations by working on the farm several hours a day. (Photo by Quackenbush Farms)

If You Have a Month or More

Serve as host

We can’t think of a better place to spend a month than one of Oregon’s 256 state parks. If you’re an RVer, you can volunteer as a campground host for a minimum of 30 days in exchange for a free stay and an annual state park pass. Park hosts work 20 hours per week, welcoming fellow campers, answering questions and supporting the park service — all in some of the most pristine natural settings in the country. In addition to campground hosting, there are opportunities to volunteer as a visitor center, day-use area, interpretative and kayak host.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a similar but lesser-known program. RVers enjoy a free stay in return for work at one of 45 fish hatcheries, wildlife areas or district offices across the state. Job assignments vary from helping with fish spawning and feeding to placing nesting boxes and banding birds to greeting visitors and leading tours. You’ll be left with plenty of time to enjoy some of these more remote, less-visited but equally scenic areas of the state. Plus, you’ll have an inside track on the best angling spots to catch dinner.

About The
Author

Shellie Bailey-Shah
Shellie Bailey-Shah is travel writer who has the distinction of having visited all seven continents, but she favors her home state of Oregon. She lives with her husband and sons in Portland and has logged thousands of miles behind the wheel of the family's RV.

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