Here in Oregon, stewardship is one of our core values. Whether it’s caring for the land, protecting local wildlife or supporting our neighbors and communities, giving back is something we do far beyond Earth Day.
It’s easy to keep that feeling of goodwill going by combining your vacation with a volunteer opportunity. Here are several ways to give your time and help keep Oregon truly special.
Join an all-inclusive ‘regenerative travel’ trip
- Regenerative travel means to leave a space better than you found it, and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing on this McKenzie Regenerative Travel trip, scheduled for April 22-24, 2022 during Earth Day. It includes an optional downhill mountain bike ride and other activities along the McKenzie River, trail work, lodging at McKenzie Riverside Cottages for two nights, all transportation including pickup/drop-off in Portland, and all food and beverages. The project was funded by a Destination Ready 1.0 grant and led in partnership by First Nature Tours, Global Family Travels, Cascade Volunteers and Travel Oregon.
- Wanderlust Tours, based in Bend, is hosting a cave clean-up on May 7, 2022. The expert guides provide transportation to several local caves, as well as trash bags, buckets, headlamps and a tasty brew from Deschutes Brewery. The event is free (with a suggested $30 donation to help fund future cleanup efforts) but registration is required. Project partners include Oregon High Desert Grotto, Deschutes National Forest, Visit Bend, Visit Central Oregon and SOLVE.
- An Eastern Oregon Trail Work Volunteer Vacation is scheduled for June 17-21, 2022 in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. It involves a difficult loop hike of about 29 miles over five days, with about half the time spent on trail work and the other half on soaking up the epic vistas, stargazing, enjoying campfires and camaraderie. Gourmet backpacking meals and beverages, guided wilderness experts and crew leaders, equipment and safety gear are included. The project is led in partnership by Go Wild: American Adventures, Eastern Oregon Visitors Association and Wallowa Mountain Hells Canyon Trail Association.
- At Breitenbush Hot Springs in Detroit, guests who sign up for designated service weekends are offered a discounted stay in exchange for restoration work on the property after wildfire damage from the 2020 Lionshead fire. Sign up for the property’s newsletter to receive early notice about an opportunity in October 2022, including stewardship work like planting trees and native wildflower seed and clearing land of debris.
Help your neighbors
Healthy individuals may donate blood to the American Red Cross. 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 thrive.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.