A quarter century ago, Congregation Beth Israel decided to organize volunteers to do something Jewish for Christmas. Over the years, the effort has included delivering Meals on Wheels and serving Christmas dinner for low-income residents in the area.
For many years, Alan Rosenfeld co-chaired the committee that organized the dinner. Rosenfeld and Beth Israel volunteers started making Christmas day deliveries for Meals on Wheels about 1985. Sometime in the 1990s, Rosenfeld said the congregation started to cooperate with Loaves and Fishes to cater a Christmas meal. Trinity Episcopal, St. Mary’s Cathedral and First Emanuel Lutheran all pitched in on the effort, he said.
For about a decade, congregants have teamed up with Northwest Portland Ministries in their efforts to ensure everyone in their neighborhood could enjoy a Christmas dinner. A few years ago gift bags – including personal hygiene items as well as hats and scarves knitted by Beth Israel’s Mitzvah Knitters and Tualatin Knitters Guild – were added to the mix. This year’s meal also included a flu shot clinic staffed by nurses from Legacy.
On Dec. 23, about 100 volunteers cooked and served a sit down meal of turkey and all the fixings to some 500 people in Beth Israel’s Goodman Hall. Leftover food was delivered to Goose Hollow Family Shelter.
“We publicized this throughout Northwest Portland, the Pearl and downtown,” said Beth Israel member Susan Milstein, who chaired this year’s effort. “This is a community event. People don’t have to be low-income. If you live in our community, you are welcome to the dinner.”
Reflective of the expanded area for the dinner, NWPM also has broadened its geography to include the Pearl District, Old Town and downtown.
That’s not the only change for the nonprofit interfaith agency. As of Feb. 2, NWPM will be called Lift Urban Portland.
“Lift Urban Portland is more compelling to our audiences and supporters. The word ‘ministries’ is often misleading and confuses people about our mission,” according to a statement from the agency. “A new tagline, ‘An interfaith community of volunteers,’ reflects our roots in area congregations, whose volunteers launched the organization 30 years ago.”
The name also reflects the changing nature of services the agency provides. Lift Urban Portland not only provides transportation services, it also focuses on nutrition programs and helping neighbors complete personal tasks to maintain their independence and dignity.
“We want to continue to evolve along with neighbors’ needs,” said the agency’s statement. “We are an interfaith community of volunteers who Lift Up neighbors in need. …
“Volunteers from congregations and the local community empower neighbors to live with dignity and purpose.”
Lift Urban Portland (formerly Northwest Portland Ministries) needs volunteers to help in the following areas:
•We are seeking a friendly volunteer to accompany Rose Schnitzer residents on weekly shopping trips. The chaperone would only be responsible to assist residents in getting on the bus and light shopping. The bus is driven by another volunteer. Trips take place the first three Thursdays of the month from 1 to 4:30 pm.
• Coach & Organizing Buddy – Assist a brain injured low-income resident (with a hoarding problem) to reduce her items and donate them to a good cause. Requires a friendly, patient and nonjudgmental attitude and several visits over a couple of months.
• Cleaning Crew – Assist disabled and frail residents with one-time cleaning to get them caught up before their housing inspections. This is a perfect volunteer job to do with a friend. Flexible scheduling.
• Food Drive Committee – Help outreach to congregations and community partners and organize this important effort that helps gather much-needed food donations.
• Fundraising for Food – Help create materials to entice potential donors to buy a week’s worth of eggs, a 50-lb bag of dry milk, cooking oil or other essential food items that are rarely received in food drives. This is a great project for creative folks even if you don’t want to do the asking!
• Transportation Volunteer – If you have a van, pickup truck or SUV and would consider being available for helping transport items from one place to another in the service of those in need, please let us know.
• Spring is coming and we have a variety of garden project opportunities. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to express interest and find out more.
For information on these and other volunteer opportunities, contact Kelly Caldwell, Northwest Portland Ministries Volunteer Program Manager, at 503-221-1224, ext. 105.