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 founder of Indigo Arts Alliance, 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
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 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.
The Portland Housing Authority, which provides affordable housing and services, runs three neighborhood study centers for students who might otherwise have trouble finding a place for quiet study and homework help. The study centers primarily serve students in grades three through 12, but they are also a resource for community members and Adult Education students. Find out more about volunteering.
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.
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.
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.
Economic and Cultural Organizations
ProsperityME offers financial literacy courses and one-on-one financial counseling for individuals and families. Their services are open to all refugees, immigrants, asylees, and low-income individuals in Greater Portland and Lewiston/Auburn, Maine.
Friends of Congress Square Park is a non profit organization that maintains, beautifies, and holds over 200 arts related events over the course of their season in Congress Square Park. Their mission is devoted to creating a welcoming, safe, supportive, and fun atmosphere in the heart of Portland's downtown area.
The Maine Charitable Mechanics Association is a community organization that supports and builds networking for Maine's makers and arts and cultural entrepreneurs. MCMA co-sponsors non-profit events, rents space for private functions, and looks for partnerships and volunteers in the local community. MCMA is located at Mechanics' Hall. Mechanics' Hall includes a membership library and hosts MCMA maker lectures and gatherings, as well as member-sponsored exhibits and performances.
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 and 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.
Maine Kids Code is an after-school program for middle school students interested in coding and technology in the Greater Portland area. Students focus on creating interactive stories, making games, and on the intersection of technology, art, and music.
Portland Adult Education offers business and skills training, 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.
Portland Public Library is Maine’s oldest and largest public library system and is the most visited cultural institution in Maine, serving 675,000 visitors annually at four locations and a bookmobile. The library offers over 300,000 books, audiobooks, musical recordings, movies, and digital resources, and access to the collections of the world’s great libraries, plus robust internet access and free wireless connectivity. They present a wide variety of lectures, classes, exhibits, programs and performances for all ages.
Portland Society for Architecture's membership includes architects, engineers, landscape architects, design professionals, and individuals committed to the protection and enhancement of those aspects of urban design which contibute to Portland's economic activity and cultural identity. Their work includes advocacy and educational programming open to everyone.
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.
Community Media Organizations
Portland Media Center 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. Their mission is to educate, connect, inform, and facilitate creativity through various aspects of video production.