Hands On Greater Portland - United Way's volunteer program - makes it easy to connect with volunteer opportunities to match your schedule and interests – and that empower you to make a meaningful, rewarding change in the Portland area.

This month John Afryl, our Senior Program Manager, celebrated 12 years with the Hands On Greater Portland team. We asked John to share his thoughts on Global Volunteer Month and ways to still get involved during the pandemic...


Global Volunteer Month logo

April 2020 is the first-ever “Global Volunteer Month” to recognize the thousands of people around the world who serve their own communities – and in light of COVID-19, as a galvanizing moment to inspire and activate the next generation of volunteers who will help support the most vulnerable populations in the weeks and months ahead.

I’ve had the privilege of being part of the Hands On Greater Portland team for the past twelve years. Through the many volunteer projects I’ve developed, lead, participated in, and promoted, I’ve met many wonderful people that decided to spend at least a few hours of their day, week, month, or year making their community better. During difficult times like we are facing now, I look to the dedicated individuals that support hundreds of nonprofit organizations and provide valuable service for inspiration. The beautiful thing is that volunteerism has never been easier to take part in.

Some might say that it’s too difficult to find a meaningful way to volunteer in our disconnected age. Yet, Hands On has been countering that narrative for 24 years. We provide a calendar on our website to make it easy for prospective do-gooders to browse dozens of different opportunities each month, appropriate for a wide range of ages and abilities. 

While our calendar might look a little different during this time of social distancing, we are connecting every day with our nonprofit partners to develop new opportunities to support our community. We invite you to view our newly created, and continually updated page to see a list of nonprofit in-kind donation needs and ways for you to volunteer.

If you have the means to donate supplies, many social service organizations are struggling to support their clients.

Remote opportunities are continuing to be developed, like this opportunity to support 211 from home: 211 Resource - Remote Volunteers Needed! (age 18+) Referral or our Tasty Treats for Dogs DIY project, where you can bake dog treats and freeze them for later donation, or see updated ways to support Oregon Humane Society.

Many individuals have stepped up with their sewing skills in support of mask making efforts in support of Transition Projects, UCP Oregon, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, and more. We were also able to host our monthly Get Crafty for Newborns project in an online gathering to support mask making and other needs for Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Clinic and Randall Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care.

Volunteerism might look different during social distancing, but partner organizations like Virginia Garcia still need your help providing blankets for newborns.

We also know that marginalized communities are facing greater hardships right now, and we want to spotlight efforts through Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) to support neighbors in the Jade District, VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project is raising funds for day laborers, Q Center is providing a donation drop off site and requests financial support for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, as well as support for Operation Nightwatch’s houseless services and Oregon Child Care Provider Relief’s efforts to support child care providers under tremendous stress.

During these uncertain times I am comforted with the knowledge that so many people want to give their time and energy. I’m grateful for every opportunity to give back in support of our many wonderful, community-focused organizations, and I am looking forward to lending a hand alongside others when group-based volunteering resumes.