Makayla Caldwell was 21 years old and living on Portland’s streets when she signed up for a workshop with Outside the Frame, a nonprofit that trains homeless and marginalized youth in film. Eighteen months later, she’s just wrapped her first season working on Hulu’s smash-hit series Shrill. Next up? She’s a production intern on a Nicolas Cage film.

Sonja McKenzie became a client of Dress for Success Oregon, after years as a stay-at-home mom. Now she manages the volunteer/intern program at Planned Parenthood, and earlier this year became cochair of the Dress for Success Oregon board.

Iran-born Fatemeh Reshad was only four months old when she was blocked from getting to Portland for heart surgery by Trump’s travel ban in January 2017. A team of medical and legal professionals, including a tenacious Portland immigration lawyer who volunteered to help, ensured Reshad made it to OHSU from Tehran for a successful surgery.

These three are among countless people whose lives have been changed through the work of Portland’s nonprofits and volunteers. We shine a light on those often unsung heroes in our annual Light a Fire awards, honoring their work in our magazine and at our gala awards ceremony. Outside the Frame (Light a Fire 2018 Best New Nonprofit), Dress for Success Oregon (2019 Extraordinary Executive Director), Reshad’s team (2017 Rapid Reaction) are among the tens of thousands of nonprofits and volunteers in Oregon busting their asses to make our city and state better for everyone who lives here.

Light a Fire began 15 years ago as an impulse from Portland Monthly cofounder Nicole Vogel to create a guide that clued locals in on how best to invest time, energy, and hard-earned dollars in their community. It’s evolved into one of the annual projects and events of which we at the magazine are most proud. We’re inspired and galvanized by those around us dedicated to tipping the scales for good. (I’m not crying, you’re crying.)

This year’s crop of winners is no different. There’s the lifelong LGBTQ activist quietly changing minds and hearts around our city. There’s the nonprofit giving immigrants and refugees a platform to tell their stories of loss and hope, from fleeing the Khmer Rouge to escaping civil war in Burundi. There’s a school tackling systemic educational inequities for historically underserved children. And many more to make your heart swell. We’ve given Light a Fire Awards to more than 200 nonprofits and individuals since 2005. But all of us, simply as people living in a city and state made better every day by their efforts, are the real winners here. Let’s celebrate—and then roll up our sleeves to pitch in.

The 15th Annual Light a Fire Awards

6 p.m., November 21, Oregon Convention Center

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