The Roots of Lift Urban Portland

Lift Urban Portland was founded in 1980 as Northwest Portland Ministries by lay people from churches and synagogues in Northwest Portland. Their goal was to help neighborhood residents through coordinated volunteer efforts.

Initial activities included conducting food drives and distributing government food commodities, helping people connect with social services, and providing opportunities for neighborhood residents to socialize.

An early tradition, which started in 1985 and continues today, is the annual Christmas dinner. More than 150 congregational and community volunteers turn out to prepare and serve turkey dinners and provide fellowship and small gifts to about 500 people—both on-site at Congregation Beth Israel and via Meals on Wheels home delivery.

As volunteers became involved in the community, they saw the need for services unavailable through traditional sources. From 1988 to 2011, Lift Urban Portland provided transportation for elderly and disabled. The program was phased out in 2011 as the organization’s mission evolved.

Lift Urban Portland entered a partnership with Home Forward (formerly The Housing Authority of Portland) to provide socialization and other services to residents of low-income apartment buildings through an Adopt-a-Highrise program. Volunteers from churches and synagogues provide community-building and enrichment activities, including social events and classes.

Lift Urban Portland also matches volunteers and residents for one-on-one assistance to help elders and people with disabilities live independently.

Since 2005, Lift Urban Portland volunteers have helped operate a weekday Senior Meal Site that serves hot lunches daily to 50 or more elders.

In 2007, Lift Urban Portland acquired a community emergency food pantry and — with the support of donors, the Oregon Food Bank, and local businesses — expanded the program to provide staples and fresh food in an environment that emulates a small grocery store. The food pantry serves 1000 people each month with an additional 95 people receiving fresh produce.

In 2008, Lift Urban Portland established the Food for Kids Backpacks program, which provides weekend food for Chapman Elementary School students who live in shelters and depend on school lunches for nutrition. This program feeds 160 each weekend.

In 2012, Northwest Portland Ministries became Lift Urban Portland to better reflect our expanded service area, acknowledging both our member congregations as well as neighbors served in the Pearl, Old Town, and downtown.

The organization was incorporated on January 30, 1986, and received its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in July 1987.