The outdoor recreation, the shops and restaurants, the beautiful homes, the mountain and water views — there’s a lot to love about living in Vancouver, Washington. But perhaps our favorite part is the sense of community you’ll find here. Our population is composed of many giving and caring individuals who will go out of their way to take care of their neighbor. And as a result, there are a number of incredible non-profits and charitable organizations in Vancouver and surrounding areas, serving the needs of individuals, families (and pets!) in our midst.
Read on to learn more about a few of these Vancouver non-profit organizations and the amazing work they are doing in our community, from providing food and shelter to offering mental health and education services. More importantly, find out how you can come alongside them to help, whether it’s by donating your money, time or other resources.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
— Muhammad Ali
Clark County Food Bank is a regional food bank distributing more than 8 million pounds of food and 6.7 million meals each year. They link arms with 43 partners at 130 distribution sites in the area to serve those experiencing food insecurity in Clark County. The mission at Clark County Food Bank is two-fold: providing emergency food relief to individuals and families, as well as implementing a preventative stance against the various causes of hunger.
For more than 50 years, FISH of Vancouver has provided free emergency nutritionally balanced food without charge. Their intention is to offer a 3-5 day supply of food (called a “full meal deal”) once a month to any person declaring their need. FISH of Vancouver receives no financial support from the government; the organization is run by dedicated volunteers and staff and funded entirely by donations!
One Life exists “to feed and equip people in our community to break cycles of poverty.” They achieve this through a number of programs, including their shopping-style food pantry, homeless care program, nutrition education, and The Giving Garden.
Second Step Housing is a non-profit that provides safe, affordable housing, case management and educational opportunities to adults, children and families working towards self-sufficiency. They partner with other local non-profits, businesses and community members to meet housing needs throughout Southwest Washington.
Habitat for Humanity partners with people in the community and all over the world to help them build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Evergreen Habitat for Humanity helps homeowners throughout Southwest Washington achieve the strength, stability, and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and for their families.
How You Can Support Evergreen Habitat for Humanity: Donate land, building materials and other physical items, donate money, or volunteer your time.
Share believes every person counts. They live this out by “building relationships, advocating for equitable access to housing and food stability while empowering every individual to grow and thrive.” The organization has a number of programs and services, including shelters for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, a Hot Meals program that provides free meals to the public, an Individual Development Accounts savings program to buy a home, car or pursue an education, and much more.
Open House Ministries is a family shelter housing more than 100 residents a night, more than half of which are homeless children. But Open House is more than just a shelter; the kind staff and volunteers walk alongside homeless families, helping them rebuild their lives, reclaim independence, and find “home” again.
Children are the future — which is why it is so important to invest in and empower the next generation. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington is doing just that by creating “one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.” The organization is the largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network in the nation, providing meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteer mentors and children ages 5-18.
Since 1999, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington has provided a positive environment, quality programs and lifelong learning skills for school-age children in the Vancouver area. They place a special emphasis on those coming from disadvantaged circumstances, providing a safe space for them to have fun and be themselves, and build up self-esteem through supportive relationships.
For more than 50 years, Educational Opportunities for Children & Families (EOCF) has provided comprehensive early childhood education and family support programs in Southwest Washington. Their mission is “to connect, empower, and transform the lives of children and families” and they achieve this through high-quality early childhood education, childcare, and family services, offered at no cost to eligible families. EOCF has become the second largest social service nonprofit organization in Clark County with an annual operating budget of more than $15 million and 275 employees.
When a child enters the dependency system as a result of abuse, neglect or abandonment, they often need a voice — someone to act in their best interest and provide support throughout the process. That’s where CASA comes in. Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, volunteers assist the court in making crucial decisions about a child’s immediate and long-term needs. Each CASA volunteer commits to 2 years in the program to provide consistency and stability for each child, as they assist in the process of returning them safely to their parents or placing them in a safe, permanent home.
Did you know that there are more than 103,000 dogs in Clark County? This im-paw-tent population deserves plenty of space to safely run, socialize and exercise. DOGPAW (Dog Owners Group for Park Access in Washington) passionately believes that dog parks are a vital part of our community’s quality of life. The non-profit organization maintains four off-leash dog parks in the county — Dakota Memorial Dog Park, Ike Memorial Dog Park, Kane Memorial Dog Park, and Lucky Memorial Dog Park.
Founded in 1897, the Humane Society has a long tradition of caring for animals in Southwest Washington. The organization is “dedicated to completing families through animal adoptions, matchmaking, and lost and found services.” But they are more than just a shelter! The HSSW also operates ReTails Thrift Store, a thrift store with gently used home goods, clothing, books and more, with proceeds supporting the dogs, cats and rabbits at the shelter.
The mission of the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington is “to provide and facilitate access to free, compassionate, quality healthcare for community members who are otherwise unable to obtain such services.” Founded in 1990, the clinic offers free basic healthcare in addition to dental and specialty care. They are powered by the energy and dedication of volunteers who provide most of their clinical services to patients, who are able to stay at work and out of hospital emergency rooms.
Columbia River Mental Health Services (CRMHS) is a mental health center serving children, adults and families in Southwest Washington with a variety of services, including drug and alcohol treatment, employment services, outpatient and medical services, supported housing, and much more.
Lifeline Connections is “a community-based behavioral health organization that specializes in providing confidential and compassionate care to individuals who experience a substance use and/or mental health condition.” Since 1962, the organization has treated and assisted thousands of individuals each year, helping them achieve and maintain recovery from their behavioral health condition. Lifeline Connections offers services for a number of issues, including mental health, problem gambling, substance use, and much more.
What other local non-profit organizations in Southwest Washington should we be aware of? Tell us all about them in the comments below.