Image: Sara King

Feeding Oregon’s hungry children. Providing immediate resources to Black Portlanders through an emergency fund. Assisting the houseless find shelter and pathways to employment. Working to ensure all LGBTQ Oregonians experience equality. Helping thousands of Oregonians with COVID-19-related needs. Guiding underserved youth in Portland to reach their full potential. These are just some of the extraordinary tasks undertaken by the organizations and individuals being honored this year at our 2020 Light a Fire awards.

It’s been an extraordinarily tough year for nonprofits in Oregon: in a survey this June, more than half the Oregon nonprofits involved said they were concerned they would not be able to maintain levels of services, and 46 percent were worried about covering operating expenses through the end of the year. This at a time when the work nonprofits are doing is more urgent than ever, with a global pandemic that has hit underserved communities the hardest and precipitated a massive economic downturn affecting not just their funding sources, but the communities they serve.

Which is why we want to remind everyone, once again, of the amazing work being done—often in new ways, thanks to the particular challenges of COVID-19—by the thousands of nonprofits operating in our state, and the individuals who labor tirelessly to keep them going.

We collected nominations from our readers and the community at large, with our panel of judges—foundation, corporate giving, and nonprofit leaders—scoring shortlisted entries and selecting the winners. We will celebrate them at an award ceremony on October 14, which this year will be free of charge and take place virtually—but be hosted, as always, by the inimitable Poison Waters.

While you’re waiting for the main event, check out this year’s outstanding winners:

Best New Nonprofit: Our Giving Table
Keeping Us Healthy: Growing Gardens
Most with the Least: Gather: Make: Shelter
Caring for the Planet: Portland Audubon
COVID-19 Response: The Contingent
Giving Shelter: Transition Projects
Marie Equi Award: Basic Rights Oregon
Black Lives Matter: Black Resilience Fund
Extraordinary Nonprofit: Self Enhancement Inc (SEI)
Young Leader: Jordan Herrle
Extraordinary Executive Director: Brennan Wood
Extraordinary Volunteer: Margaret-Ann Jones
Lifetime Achievement: Martha Richards

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