A few of the wonderful organizations that make Portland so special:

Since 1968, the same year I first visited Portland, Outside In has been providing homeless young people with medical care, meals, shelter, and tutoring to help them get a GED, succeed in college, or get a job. What I learned from volunteering: my god, the kids some families throw away! What are they thinking? Bright, funny, kind-hearted, brave—these kids are great. They don’t deserve the rough hand they’ve been dealt. Please give these folks some money so they can help even more.

In 1972, partly to keep an eye on my boyfriend and partly inspired by a wonderful teacher, I started going on birding walks with folks from the Portland Audubon Society, and my admiration for this group has only grown over the years. It’s no exaggeration to say they’ve reshaped the Portland landscape through their tireless advocacy for wildlife and the natural environment. Because of Portland Audubon, its members and offshoots, our city has an extensive and highly connected network of hiking trails and bike paths and parks—just what you need to stay sane in town.

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I don’t know that the Multnomah County Library is the best county library in the universe, but I sure wouldn’t be surprised. It’s the most well-used in the country, at least: it circulates more books every year than any other library in the United States except the New York Public Library. (But there are a few more people in New York.) Unlike most large libraries, they have open stacks, so you can browse the shelves with nothing in mind. I’ve found some great books that way.

And are the librarians helpful? When I walked in searching for memoirs of disastrous childhoods, the reference librarian found a hole WorldCat could not fill. So she asked her colleagues and compiled a list of their answers, which she then emailed me. Google, much as I use it, hasn’t done anything that nice for me yet.