Image courtesy Vikki Rubens

With so many hurting people and hard news in our world, I can sometimes feel paralyzed when it comes to how I can help. But I do believe it’s better for me (and my kids) to do something, rather than nothing at all. Luckily, there are two things in particular that my whole family can participate in this April through Neighborhood House.

Neighborhood House is a wonderful organization in SW Portland that addresses the community’s various needs by bringing neighbors together to reduce hunger and homelessness and educate both young and old. One of the most important arms of the organization is their food pantry, the largest one on the west side. The Neighborhood House Food Pantry invites families to come and “shop” in the pantry, stocked with both dry goods and fresh produce and meats.

After the holiday season is over, there is often a sharp decline in food donations. During this period, Neighborhood House holds an annual community food drive called SW Hope, and it’s happening right now from February 28-April 10. I love their creativity as they invite local faith communities, businesses, and schools to help fully stock the shelves. Over the six weeks of the drive, there are numerous events to join in support of Neighborhood House.

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One event we have supported for a number of years is Empty Bowls. In past years, supporters would purchase a beautiful handmade ceramic bowl at the event and eat a bowl of soup. Due to the pandemic, this year will be a pick up and go event — you register online for a bowl and the type of soup you would like, and then pick up will be at Multnomah Arts Center on April 1, from 5-7pm. Your kids can still go and pick their favorite bowl when they arrive and know that every $1 donated equals 4 lbs. of food. Our kids are reminded of global hunger and how they made a small difference in Portland whenever they use their bowls.

Empty Bowls, courtesy Meg Asby

The other event we plan to attend is the SW Hope 5K on April 9, at Oregon Episcopal School, which includes a kids 1K fun run which has upbeat energy but isn’t too overwhelming. There is a tent with snacks for the racers and a kids’ tent with coloring pages. My children love doing this run with their friends every year. This year there is a $5000 grant matched when 250 participants sign up, and, as of this writing, they are almost halfway there! There is also a virtual run option, if preferred. 

Neighborhood House also has family friendly opportunities to help out in their food pantry year-round. You can contact Katie Janovec at [email protected] for more details. I am grateful for hands-on opportunities to have constructive conversations about the needs around us, and the chance to do small acts with great love. 

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Want to learn about more opportunities to help in Portland? Read our article on organizations that are feeding Oregon’s families, and check out these other family-friendly volunteer opportunities in Portland.

Vikki Rubens
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