Community Service

Where to Help Out This MLK Day

Ideas for a day of service

By Karly Quadros

There are many volunteer options around Portland to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us in 1964, “The time is always right to do what is right.” This MLK Day, there’s no shortage of opportunities to do what’s right, whether it’s clearing trash from the Willamette, making care kits for the homeless, or planting trees in Portland’s underserved neighborhoods. Below is a list of volunteer opportunities and other events in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy. 

Service Opportunities 

MLK Day Clean Up with the Surfrider Foundation and the City of Portland 

Pick up trash in inner southeast to help keep our waterways clear. 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at the evo Portland store (200 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd). Register here 

SOLVE’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service 

Join this environmental group in litter cleanups at four locations around the city. 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Meet at Waterfront Park (98 SW Naito Pkwy), The Benson Hotel (309 SW Broadway), The Standard (900 SW 5 Ave), or the Subaru of Portland Showroom (400 E Burnside St). Register here 

Make care kits for the houseless with Blanchet House 

For a more socially distant way to get involved, you can put together a personal hygiene or winter supplies care kit for people struggling with houselessness this January. Kits can be dropped off Mon–Sat at 310 NW Glisan from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

MLK Day Volunteer Planting with the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership 

Plant native trees and shrubs along the newly restored Gibbons Creek and Burnt Bridge Creek. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Meet at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge (35001 Lewis and Clark Highway, Washougal, WA) or Burnt Bridge Creek Stewart Glen Trailhead (NW Lakeshore Ave, Vancouver, WA). Register here and here. 

Service Day at Smith and Bybee Wetlands with Metro Parks and Nature 

There will be planting and mulching galore at Portland’s nearby wetlands. 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Meet at the Smith and Bybee Wetland Area (5300 N Marine Dr). Register here. 

Care for young trees in Cully with Urban Forestry and the Confluence Environmental Center’s AmeriCorps program 

Give these trees a little TLC to keep a northeast Portland park beautiful. 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Meet at Sacajawea Park (4999 NE 75 Ave) Register here. 

More Events 

Reclaim MLK: Don’t Shoot PDX’s Annual March for Human Rights and Dignity 

This call to action is a solidarity march to amplify the voices of Portland’s most marginalized groups. 1 p.m., Peninsula Park (700 N Rosa Parks Wy) 

Keep Alive the Dream at the Hollywood Theatre 

Premiering this year, Keep Alive the Dream celebrates MLK’s impact on Black life in Portland. 3 p.m., Hollywood Theatre (4122 NE Sandy Blvd). FREE 

King: A Filmed Record at the Clinton Street Theater 

This landmark 1970 documentary from film icons Sidney Lumet and Joseph Mankowitz provides newsreel, archival footage, and dramatic readings from Harry Belafonte, James Earl Jones, and Paul Newman to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy. 6:30 p.m., Clinton Street Theater (2522 SE Clinton St). FREE 

Not Just One Day

If you’re feeling cautious about large groups of people, the Portland area has no shortage of local racial justice organizations in need of donations or long-term volunteers. Here are just some of them. 

Black Food Sovereignty Coalition 

Black Futures Farm 

Black Resilience Fund 

Black United Fund of Oregon 

Brown Hope 

Don’t Shoot PDX 

Equitable Giving Circle 


Mudbone Grown 

Self Enhancement Inc. 

Unite Oregon 

Wild Diversity 

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