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School is out, volunteering is in


HandsOn Greater Portland encourages young East County residents to volunteer

School’s out for summer, but youths in the Portland area have plenty of opportunities to stay active and help out their communities.

“The number one benefit of students volunteering is the opportunity to give something back to the community,” said Becky Blumer, director of HandsOn Greater Portland. “It’s a really good way for them to build skills outside of a paid position and build up their service résumés on the way into college. It’s also a great way for students to meet people of all ages.”

This year, Hands On Greater Portland has partnered with Verified Volunteers to offer background screenings that can be shared through multiple nonprofit organizations.

This ensures students can start the volunteering process faster, making it easier to connect with opportunities online and reducing the costs of the background check for both the volunteers and nonprofit organizations.

“Verified Volunteers creates more sharing and volunteer engagement among the organizations that are active with the program,” said Braden Beisse, regional director of Verified Volunteers.

Beisse said the most important part of the platform is the robust level of screening it offers, covering volunteers’ regional and nationwide histories with up-to-date information. This also helps to put parents’ worries at ease.

According to statistics, about 14.5 percent of volunteers in Oregon are 16-19 years of age. That number is slightly higher in the Portland area at 15.2 percent.

Blumer noted that not all nonprofit organizations are set up to accept younger volunteers, but one way around that barrier is looking at family friendly opportunities or having younger volunteers participate with an older sibling, parent or mentor.

She said that when organizations have a positive experience with younger volunteers, they will be more likely to bring them back and expand opportunities.

Blumer pointed to Northwest Children’s Outreach, SnowCap Community Charities and 4 Worlds United Soccer Alliance as popular organizations for East County volunteers, and said HandsOn Greater Portland hopes to partner with the city of Gresham to expand eastside opportunities.

“They learn about the community,” she said. “They build customer service skills that can translate into a retail environment. They have the opportunity to test themselves in the world. They can sort food and clothing for people living in poverty, and they can build bridges between cultures through soccer.”

To connect with volunteer opportunities through Hands On Greater Portland, visit handsonportland.org.