M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

April was officially named National Volunteer Month by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 as part of his 1000 Points of Light campaign. This campaign was an effort to celebrate volunteer organizations across America, which President Bush likened to “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” Since then, volunteers and organizations across the nation have consistently stepped forward and redoubled their efforts to serve communities in April.

A woman with dark straight hair wearing glasses hands a vegetable to a woman wearing a straw hat at a produce line.
Northwest Harvest, 2020

These days, it can feel as if the skies we are living under are not “broad and peaceful” but ominous and uncertain. The last two years have contained a deadly pandemic, tragic murders, devastating wildfires, and unjust war, to name only a few of the causes for uncertainty in our world. Just when we imagine some sense of stability, the weather shifts.

A group of volunteers sort boxes.
Latino Community Association, 2020

Despite all this, one thing has remained constant: volunteers have consistently shown up in their communities, hands open and ready to serve. We have been inspired to read of countless individuals and families giving time and energy to support local organizations across the Pacific Northwest:

  • The Idaho Foodbank recognized Alina, one of its youngest volunteers, who at age 13 created opportunities for local youth to advocate for marginalized communities and volunteer for local nonprofits, such as the Foodbank
  • Mentors like Melissa at Covenant House Alaska volunteered their time to support youth to be their best selves
  • Volunteers in Tacoma, WA handed boxes of food to over 100 cars every Monday and Wednesday as part of World Vision’s Fresh Food Box Program
  • The Catholic Charities of Oregon (CCO) saw an impressive number of nursing students from the University of Portland invest more than 2,300 volunteer hours at CCO housing sites
  • Volunteers like Dawn at Camp Mak-a-Dream in Montana supported those with cancer and their families through serving in the camp kitchen, as cabin counselors, and more
A woman with dark curly hair in an industrial kitchen hands a plate of food to a man with dark hair wearing a gray jacket.
Bethlehem Inn, 2021

These inspiring stories are only some of the ways communities and individuals in the Pacific Northwest have stepped up and served in the last few years. We know there are so many more stories we could add.

And yet we also know there are many in our communities who would like to formally volunteer with local organizations, but find themselves without the means, transportation, or support to do so. We acknowledge and thank these people too, who find creative ways to serve others and spread kindness through a friendly word or a smile to a stranger. After all, just as philanthropy is for everyone, volunteering is for everyone, because everyone has the ability to spread kindness and love with their words and actions.

So whether serving those around you looks like reading books at local schools, serving food to those in your community, or offering a friendly word to someone at a street corner, let us all embrace the spirit of volunteerism this month. In this way, we can all be part of the thousand points of light that shine brightly no matter the skies.

To all those who serve the communities of the Pacific Northwest with their time and actions, we say thank you, this month and every month!

To find volunteer opportunities near you, check out Volunteer Match, JustServe, or United Way, or reach out to your favorite local nonprofit to see how you can help.  

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