Portland's size supports and encourages community involvement. It’s easy to meet people, make inroads, and start being a part of real planning, shaping, and decision-making in Portland and beyond.
Marcia Minter, a Chicago transplant and Vice President Creative Director for LL Bean, says she’s been a lot more involved in community work since she moved to Portland. Marcia has served on a diverse array of boards, including Portland Ovations, Parks for People (through the Trust for Public Land), and Portland Freedom Trail. She says, “I’m certain there’s no way that I would have been involved in nearly as many things in Chicago or New York, and I wouldn’t have wanted to given the logistics of getting from one location to the next. Here it’s much easier to get where you need to go and start developing a reputation much sooner than you can in larger cities, or even in midsize cities.”
Want to get involved but not sure how? VolunteerMaine is a network of state, nonprofit, public, and private agencies that have come together to promote volunteerism in Maine. You can search volunteer opportunities or national service projects like AmeriCorps and Foster Grandparents.
There are many more ways to start contributing. Here’s a sampling.
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Civic Engagement Opportunities
The Institute for Civic Leadership offers training opportunities for nonprofit boards and a year-long networking and leadership development program.
Community Support Organizations
Catholic Charities Maine is dedicated to providing support for the refugee and immigrant communities in Maine. Learn more about making a donation or volunteer opportunities, from ESL tutoring to the American Friends Program, which matches English-speaking families or individuals with refugee families.
The Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project provides free and low-cost immigration information and legal assistance to low-income Maine residents. ILAP helps immigrants keep their families together, gain protection from persecution and domestic violence, attain residency and work authorization, and become proud U.S. citizens. There are many volunteer opportunities.
The Portland Community Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides primary and mental healthcare for adults and children. Portland CHC is dedicated to providing high quality, patient-centered healthcare that is affordable and culturally sensitive. In addition to serving uninsured patients on a sliding fee scale, Portland CHC welcomes individuals with MaineCare, Medicare, and private insurance. Portland CHC welcomes donations.
Preble Street provides support for people experiencing problems with homelessness, housing, hunger, and poverty through drop-in centers, soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, social work services, and supported housing. You can help by volunteering, making a financial contribution or in-kind donation, and more.
The Portland Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for families of children with cancer and other serious illnesses. Families can stay in proximity to the treatment hospital, be comfortable and cared for during their stay, and enjoy home-cooked meals, private bedrooms, and a place for children to play. There are many volunteer opportunities.
Wayside Food Programs is dedicated to increasing access to nutritious food for those in need in Southern Maine. Wayside’s hunger relief efforts include free community meals, mobile food pantries, a kids’ healthy snacks program, and community gardens. Wayside collects and distributes food to 47 agencies, including soup kitchens, food pantries, and other social service providers. You can help by donating money, food, or time.
Community Media Organizations
Community Television Network (CTN) is a nonprofit organization that operates the public access television station, Channel 2, for the City of Portland and a community television station, Channel 5, for the greater Portland area. Support CTN or contact the organization for information on how to get involved.
Pride Portland! brings together Portland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied community to celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQA movement and raise awareness of the work that still needs to be done. Pride Portland! sponsors the city's annual Pride Festival & Parade, and welcomes volunteers.
Greater Portland Landmarks promotes the preservation and revitalization of historic buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes, while encouraging high-quality new architecture that enhances the livability and economic vitality of greater Portland. Learn about ways to get involved as a member, volunteer, or docent.
Portland Adult Education offers business and skills training, along with literacy classes and “personal enrichment” offerings such as dance, crafts, or cooking courses. Enrollment is open to everyone, and there is a great need for volunteers to assist in classrooms and to work as tutors with students who are learning English as a second language.
The Multilingual and Multicultural Center oversees Portland Public Schools' English Language Acquisition Program for students whose home language is not English. Currently, the district has over 2,200 students who come from homes where over 60 different languages are spoken, representing about 25% of the schools' total enrollment. There are many volunteer opportunities.
Salt Institute for Documentary Studies offers intensive fifteen-week programs in documentary writing, radio, and photography for undergraduate and graduate students.
Professional and Leadership Opportunities
Maine Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts‘ mission is to provide effective legal council for artists and organizations with limited financial resources and to educate broadly about arts-related business and legal issues.