Give Guide: EW’s annual nonprofit roundup

I’m a sucker for A Charlie Brown Christmas, and as a kid I managed to tune out the whole birth of Christ thing at the end and just focus on that sad little tree  becoming beautiful once everyone comes together to decorate and nurture it (and nurture Charlie Brown himself).

The holidays, whether you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice or don’t celebrate anything at all, bring a focus on giving — sometimes it’s the crass commercialism bemoaned by Charlie Brown, sometimes it’s gifts of love or kindness and, sometimes, it’s because you just realized the year is about to end and it’s time to donate and get a tax write-off.

Whatever your reason for giving, donating or volunteering, Give Guide is our annual offering of local nonprofits worth giving to. — Camilla Mortensen


Greenhill is littered with adoptable cats and kittens. Photo by Brinkley Capriola.

Whether or not Pope Francis said animals can go to heaven, we think all critters deserve a shot at happiness during their time on this planet, so support the animal cause — the best known is probably Greenhill Humane Society ( or 689-1503) and 1st Avenue Shelter (844-1777), for starters. Greenhill runs the two largest animal shelters in Lane County, and as a first-place winner for Best Animal Nonprofit in EW’s Best of Eugene 2014 reader’s poll, Greenhill is a community favorite for its care of adoptable dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Cats and dogs can also find shelter through Save the Pets ( or 683-7387), which holds weekend adoption events Sundays at PetSmart off Coburg Road, and S.A.R.A.’s Treasures ( or 607-8892) runs a thrift shop at 871 River Rd. to support dogs and cats in shelters and fund spaying and neutering.

To donate to a dog-focused cause, check out Luvable Dog Rescue (, previously Luv-A-Bull & Luv-A-Little Dog Rescue. Luvable rescues pit bulls, small breeds and other dogs from high-kill shelters and fosters them until they find their new home. SevaDog ( works with rescue dogs, specializes in pit bulls and deals with behavioral issues before adoption, matching dog with adopter as closely as possible. If little doggies are your favorite, Wiggly Tails Dog Rescue ( fosters the tiniest of canines.

And let’s not forget the hooved and taloned members of the animal kingdom. Drive a few hours south and find Strawberry Mountain Mustangs Rescue and Rehab ( or 784-5522) near Roseburg. Strawberry Mountain fosters abused or neglected horses and ponies, rehabilitating them and matching them up with caring homes.

Birds of prey find help at Cascades Raptor Center. Photo by Jon C. Meyers.

Bird lovers can support the cause of the Cascades Raptor Center ( or 485-1320), a rehabilitation center for birds of prey that get hurt or lose their parents in the wild. The raptor center releases rehabbed birds but also takes care of birds that can no longer survive on their own — the facility hosts owls, eagles and falcons, to name only a few species.

Another great gift is time: Most of these organizations depend on volunteers to make sure every critter gets a warm meal and a safe place to stay.

Nine Lives

Having adopted out over 2,000 cats since 2007, West Coast Cat and Dog Rescue is all about making sure local cats get the most out of their nine lives. “We focus on special-needs cats, and we often end up taking cats that would not fare well in a traditional shelter, like FIV-positive cats,” says West Coast Cat and Dog Rescue board president Kate Tryhorn. “We’ve been quite successful.”

The organization doesn’t have a facility, but rescued cats go to a network of foster homes, where potential cat parents can meet and play with adoptable felines. Even though the word “dog” is in the organization’s title, Tryhorn says she doesn’t have the resources to foster dogs at this time, although she’s interested in the idea. “We have more than 200 volunteers, but it takes all the people we have to do a really good cat program,” she says.

Tryhorn adds that donations go towards funding the rescue’s medical expenses, which include spay and neuter costs, ringworm treatment and surgeries. She says that West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue works with local trap-neuter-release programs like the Springfield TNR Project (see their Facebook page) to take adoptable cats off the streets and help get them into homes.

To donate, visit

Fixing the Problem

Katherine Ford of Willamette Animal Guild (WAG) says that WAG started when she and other founders realized that pet overpopulation couldn’t be solved by adoptions alone. “We’ve described it as a burst water pipe,” Ford says. “Before you clean up the water, you have to stop the flow of the water. And so we knew we had to do something to reduce the number of animals coming in constantly.”

And thus, Willamette Animal Guild was born — a high-volume, low-cost spay and neuter clinic in west Eugene. Ford says the clinic opened in 2008, and since then, WAG has fixed 3,600 animals, from strays to pets. WAG also offers low-cost vaccines and flea and tapeworm treatment.

“We work very hard to get grants and work with other organizations to help subsidize those low prices, because we realize there are people who can’t afford $40-$50 for a cat to get spayed or neutered,” Ford says.

She adds that WAG is outgrowing its current building on Royal Avenue, and the group is in the early stages of looking for a new site. To help WAG in its mission to curb animal overpopulation, donate at or call 345-3566.

Civil Liberties and Women’s Issues

The Civil Liberties Defense Center ( or 687-9180) gives support to activists, protesters and ordinary citizens who know their rights have been trampled but may not be able to afford an attorney. CLDC Executive Director Lauren Regan and other CLDC members also conduct “know-your-rights” trainings around the state and coordinate and serve as legal observers for local actions, such as the recent Seneca biomass plant protest. CLDC also gives legal support outside of Oregon, such as for California’s Winnemem Wintu Tribe and as far away as Keystone XL pipeline protests in Texas.

SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services or 484-9791) has been Lane County’s primary sexual assault responder since 1991 and is one of only two agencies in Oregon focused solely on providing services to survivors of sexual violence, SASS board president Lindsey Gelser tells EW. SASS provides an “empowerment-based, survivor-centered approach to change societal conditions that allow oppression, especially sexual violence, to exist.”

Gelser points out that SASS “is incredibly important to our community and is very relevant because of the work and discussions around sexual violence taking place in our community, at the University of Oregon and around the nation,” and we agree.

Also vital to the wellbeing of our community and protecting those who need our help is the work of Womenspace ( or 485-8232). Womenspace’s mission is to prevent violence in intimate partner relationships in Lane County and support survivors in claiming personal power.

The Unhoused

A warm place to rest at the Egan Warming Center. Photo courtesy of Egan Warming Center.

Eugene and Lane County can still do more to fight poverty and aid the unhoused. But let’s take a moment to admire the amazing work local nonprofits have done to address these problems. In 2013-2014 the Egan Warming Center ( or 689-6747) gave shelter to 1,124 individuals. Egan, which is administered by St. Vincent de Paul, is “a coalition of community members representing service providers, religious congregations, nonprofit support agencies, social activist communities and local government who have come together to ensure that homeless people in Lane County have a warm and safe place to sleep when temperatures drop below 30 degrees between November 15 and March 31.”

Community Supported Shelters ( 683-0836) has provided Conestoga huts at Opportunity Village ( or 606-4455) and around town such as at the Eugene Safe Spots it manages. These rest stops and villages give the unhoused a leg up and the dignity of a home and access to toilets and showers.

The Nightingale Public Advocacy Collective ( or 485-1755) will be running rest stops for the unhoused and is continuing in its efforts to “establish and operate a self-governed village-style community focused on health and wellness.” Nightingale also supports the efforts of SLEEPS (Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep) and the Whoville camp, which calls attention to the right to sleep as a basic human right.

Medical Care

Universal Health Care on the Streets of Eugene

Occupy Medical ( or 316-5743) is something you have to see for yourself. Watch the all-volunteer crew gently and cheerfully care for those in need, starting with something as simple as a haircut at the Gorilla Hair Salon or as dramatic as saving a life. You can also experience it for yourself. OM is truly universal health care, turning no one away, whether they are insured or not.

The big red-and-black bus shows up every Sunday at the downtown Eugene Park Blocks (8th and Oak) between noon and 4 pm and dispenses socks, burritos (courtesy of Burrito Brigade), peanut butter, coffee, herbal medicine, health care, prescriptions and more, according to OM medical director, Dr. Bruce Harrow.

Harrow says Occupy Medical’s work to care for wounds, treating or preventing infections, has kept people out of the emergency room and prevented possible amputations. OM’s mental health care has also kept people out of the Johnson Unit. Born of Eugene’s Occupy encampment, OM is the little bus that could, and it can do it even better with your donations.

Stitching Holes in the Social Net

Let’s not mince words: The work done throughout this community by White Bird Clinic ( or 342-8255) is astonishing. Established in 1969 by a coalition of concerned citizens — doctors, students, activists — wanting to provide medical and legal aid to folks in need, White Bird today has become a sort of crisis catch-all, providing dental and medical care, drug and alcohol treatment, crisis intervention services (largely through its roving CAHOOTS vans), mental health services and legal assistance and case management for low and no-income individuals.

Staffed largely by volunteers, this organization has committed itself to plugging the holes in our community’s social welfare net, creating a kind of alternate care system. And all this vast, comprehensive care requires money. As volunteer coordinator Ben Brubaker points out, “Any donations that we receive help support the clients we work with in a variety of ways. It underwrites all of the different programs that we do. Individuals can even specify a certain department or area.” Brubaker says that, among the new developments at White Bird, he is particularly stoked about a new area of coverage for White Bird’s mobile-care support. “We’re excited about CAHOOTS being able to expand into Springfield any time now,” he says.


Want to help fund education? Support the top-notch nonprofits around Lane County that make it their business to teach kids about the world around them in creative, engaging ways. Take Willamette Resources and Educational Network (WREN), for example, which leads free Wetland Wanders every month in the West Eugene Wetlands. January 2015’s wander is at Swallow Pond, where WREN ( or 338-7046) staff and volunteers will guide kids and parents through the wetlands to observe lichens, aquatic animals and plants. ‘

Kids Experience the outdoors with Nearby Nature. Photo courtesy of Nearby Nature.

For costumed gambits through local parks, Nearby Nature ( is just the thing. Volunteers dress up as woodland creatures and guide kids through natural areas, where they learn about ecosystems through hands-on activities and crafts.

Tech-centric Thinkersmith ( or 632-4096) is perfect for kids of all ages, with a focus on encouraging young women to enter tech fields, and it provides opportunities for students to delve into computer science while exploring their creativity. Currently Thinkersmith is raising money for a permanent facility in order to expand its offering of classes, so find the Indiegogo link on its website — the fundraising campaign ends Dec. 31.

For a broader donation, check out the Eugene Education Foundation ( or 790-7744), which awards grants to schools in Eugene School District 4J. Last school year, EEF granted money for improving music education, growing the School Garden Project and sending kids to see Shakespeare plays in Ashland, to name only a few causes. Outside of 4J, the Bethel Education Foundation ( or 913-1740) and Springfield Education Foundation ( or 726-3243) raise money for schools in their respective districts.

SPICE inspires creativity with science. Photo by Chris Pietsch.

Science with SPICE

Young girls croon Taylor Swift’s latest hit “Shake It Off” as they dance in science labs and create fantastical chemical reactions in beakers — this is an image that SPICE (Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence) is all about. SPICE program coordinator and old SLUG Queen Brandy Todd directed the dancing young scientists for a YouTube video meant to raise money through an online fundraising campaign.

“Our main focus is on girls and science, and we do this through fun, hands-on activities to put girls in the role of being scientists,” Todd says. “Right now, we’re kind of just working on growing, because we have a lot of people who want to come to SPICE Camp.”

Todd says that at SPICE Camp, girls sign up for three years, doing two weeks of scavenger hunts and data collection the summer before they start sixth grade. In year two, girls delve into forensics, using evidence to piece together answers, and their third year has them immerse in computer programming and engineering.

Todd says it’s important to bring people with a diversity of backgrounds into science — a lot of brilliant scientists are out there, she says, but people with diverse backgrounds ask questions others haven’t thought to ask.

“Getting kids engaged in science is simpler than you think,” Todd says. “And so much fun.”

To donate, contact Brandy Todd, or 541-346-4313.

The Science Factory is hands-on fun for children and adults. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Operation Sputnik

Earlier this year, The Science Factory received a message from an anonymous donor who pledged to match up to $30,000 in community contributions to the 55-year-old children’s science museum. This kicked off a flurry of fundraising, which the museum decided to call “Operation Sputnik,” in honor of the space mission that launched a national interest in science education.

“The Science Factory is a unique community resource that provides informal science learning opportunities for youth and their families,” says Emily Shelton, marketing director for The Science Factory. “It’s Lane County’s only children’s museum.”

Shelton says that donations to The Science Factory support its scholarship fund, which helps local classrooms afford to visit the museum. The scholarship fund also pays admittance to summer camps and educational programs.

Dec. 31 is the deadline for matching the $30,000 goal, and Shelton says the museum is only a few thousand dollars away from completing Operation Sputnik. To ensure a successful mission, go to and donate.

Early Help for Childhood Challenges 

As the name indicates, the mission at Early Childhood CARES ( or 346-2587) is to get in early with kids needing special attention in order to foster a healthy dynamic that will reap benefits in the future. Providing early intervention and early childhood education to infants through preschoolers, this organization offers specialized, individual treatment with specialists in everything from autism to speech therapy. Co-director Val Close notes that every dollar spent on early care saves anywhere from $7 to $17 down the line. “The more we can help parents of young children, the more support they get, the more confidence they have as a part,” Close says. “What we have found is that if we can reduce the isolation that these parents’ experience, they are much better equipped for the long run.”

Early Childhood CARES, which is funded through the Oregon Department of Education, is directly linked with the UO’s College of Education, and its services are provided free to nearly 1,300 children, regardless of income. With nearly one in 10 kids diagnosed with autism, the need for such intensive, personalized care (often in the family’s home) is great, as is the need for continued funding. According to Close, who has worked for decades in the field of early intervention, things are looking up. “We all used to be fairly hopeless about how we would approach this,” she says. “Now, what’s available to parents is a tremendous amount of information, and the ability to learn new skills and address them at school and at home.”

Arts and Music

“Art is an effort to create, beside the real world, a more humane world.” Those words, of 20th-century French writer Andre Maurois, couldn’t be more prescient today. We live in a rough world, and it’s been a tough year for humanity, but the arts — the arts will always help us to make sense of it, to find meaning in it, to find beauty in the chaos.

Luckily here in Lane County, we have a cornucopia of nonprofits that help carve out a piece of humanity.

Ballet Fantastique ( or 342-4611) has been putting contemporary flourishes on classical ballet (e.g., Cinderella: A Rock Opera) as well as premiering new ballets (Zorro) since 2000, while the Eugene Ballet Company ( or 485-3992) has been raising the barre, attracting world-class dancers and presenting over 100 ballets for the local dance community since 1978. The Oregon Ballet Academy ( or 338-7800) has been a springboard for training aspiring artists, also offering the popular Boys Program — tuition-free weekly dance classes that offer “a place for boys to feel encouraged to pursue the art of dance.”

The Eugene Opera ( or 912-5267) brings to town challenging and inspiring works like Dead Man Walking, The Girl of the Golden West and the upcoming Sweeney Todd; Oregon Contemporary Theatre ( or 684-6988) continues to push quality and contemporary drama (Becky’s New Car, I and You, Ordinary Days) to the next level while smaller outfits in the area — Actors Cabaret of Eugene ( or 683-4368), Very Little Theatre ( or 344-7751), Cottage Theatre ( or 942-8001), Rose Children’s Theatre ( or 431-0444) and Red Cane Theatre (556-4524) — keep audiences buzzing.

If it’s the sound of music that you fancy, The Jazz Station (, Eugene Symphony ( or 687-9487), Oregon Mozart Players ( or 345-6648), The Boreal (, Grrrlz Rock ( or 968-6438) and the Soromundi Lesbian Chorus of Eugene ( or 342-0535) keep Eugene jumping, jiving and wailing throughout the year, while The Shedd Community Music School ( or 434-7015) helps fill a much-needed gap in local music education.

Perhaps the hardest hit when the economy stumbles, the visual arts wrap our county in a colorful patchwork of murals and sculpture. ESAP or the Eugene Springfield Art Project ( or 915-7458) keeps empty storefronts vibrant and kick-started the popular Chalk Fest in August; the Watershed Arts Foundation ( or 729-0551) is encouraging and facilitating widespread contemporary art literacy; and the New Zone Gallery ( or 935-4308) keeps downtown connected to local experimental artists.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; to find more Lane County arts nonprofits, visit

Facilitating the Arts

Many know this nonprofit organization solely as the host of Eugene’s popular First Friday ArtWalk, but they do much more for the arts, education and communities throughout Lane County. With a tiny four-person staff, Lane Arts Council (LAC) tackles everything from administering community arts grants to local arts organizations (grantees have included Oregon Contemporary Theatre, West African Cultural Arts Institute and Sparkplug Dance) to offering professional development workshops for artists. LAC also places resident visual and performing artists in schools that are lacking in arts curriculum.

There are myriad ways to give to Lane Arts Council. Donate your time and skills by becoming a volunteer —help coordinate First Friday ArtWalks (LAC is always looking for ArtWalk ambassadors, photographers and promoters), research resources for grants or sign up to be a resident artist in a local school. On the flip side, you can also sponsor an ArtWalk or “Adopt a School” by funding an artist residency at a Lane County school (a two-week residency costs about $2,000).

Lastly, you can donate money via Network for Good or give an item from the LAC Wishlist, including extension cords, a projector, computers, copy paper and card stock. For more information visit or call 485-2278.

Pulling Art from the Waste Stream 

Material Exchange Center for the Community Arts, or MECCA, is like that cool, crafty aunt whose cupboards floweth over with rolls of zany fabrics, piles of photo slides from her far-out travels in the ’70s and a mish-mash of beads, feathers, paints, old magazines, used canvas, wine corks, unmatched socks and parts of musical instruments.

OK, if MECCA were somebody’s aunt, there probably would have been a hoarding intervention by now. MECCA is, however, “a nonprofit arts organization based in Eugene, Oregon, dedicated to diverting materials out of the waste stream and into our community’s creative endeavors.” In other words, it’s an artist’s paradise (same goes for teachers — supplies are “available at no cost to teachers and educators”).

Don’t have space to get crafty with all your chosen whozits and whatzits galore? The nonprofit arts org also provides an in-house public studio space for a sliding fee of $2-$5 an hour per person, which also gets you access to “sewing machines, a table loom, bookbinding tools, jewelry-making tools, rubber stamps, everything for drawing and painting and many more tools and supplies.”

MECCA is always looking for volunteers to staff the store, sort donations, plan events (who doesn’t love the Object Afterlife Art Challenge?) and assist in arts workshops and kids classes. Donations are also accepted in store, by mail (P.O. Box 1802, Eugene, OR 97440) or via PayPal at MECCA’s site For more info, call 302-1810.

Keeping the Community Art Tradition Alive

Maude Kerns Art Center (MKAC) has molded and nurtured the Eugene art scene for more than six decades. The center’s annual exhibits — Día de los Muertos, Jello Art Show and Art for All Seasons — have become community traditions, featuring local and national talents. And MKAC uses art as a method to probe the human condition, like 2014’s In the Moment, which displayed the portraits of 20 women delving into “the very essence of being.”

More than simply display art, however, MKAC helps create it. As the only Eugene non-profit community center for the arts, MKAC offers classes, for ages six and up, in everything from cartooning and figure painting to ceramics and jewelry making (in 2014 alone, MKAC hosted 95 art classes). After the termination of the UO’s figure drawing group, MKAC is one of the few places that hosts an open studio with a nude model — an essential practice for any burgeoning visual artist.

To give back to the namesake of Maude Kerns, the pioneering avant-garde artist who lead the UO art department in the mid-20th century, volunteer in the education, exhibit, membership or administrative programs. You can also make a general donation to MKAC or choose to donate specifically to its Classroom Upgrade Fund, Scholarship Fund or Facilities Improvement Fund — MKAC reports its roof is leaking. For more information, call 345-1571 or visit

Historic Venue Hosts Live Music for All Ages

With its old-time aura of works-program pragmatism and unionist cool, the WOW Hall at 8th and Lincoln occupies not only a special place among Eugene’s music venues but a distinct marker of this city’s history. As WOW Hall publicist and membership coordinator Bob Fennessy points out, the hall “has been a Eugene gathering place since the turn of the century. It’s a historic building that was built to be a dance hall and is still being used for that purpose.”

As an old building, the WOW Hall ( or 687-2746) needs continuous upkeep, and a capital campaign is underway to fix such things as providing safety railing for the outside stairwell, to fund the annual inspection and pruning of the big trees out front, to provide hot water in the restrooms and complete interior restoration of the main hall — along with such general-fund concerns as troubleshooting against problems that arise with an older structure. “We’ve had a lot of things pop up that take a lot of time and take a lot of money, because of the age of the building,” Fennessy says.

Primarily staffed by volunteers and, as Fennessy points out, offering all-ages events all the time, WOW Hall “enables people of all ages, incomes and abilities to participate and see shows while giving back to the community.” Consider any donation to WOW Hall to be a donation to the city itself — to its culture, its arts and its ability to provide a venue where generations of music fans can come together. “A lot of people are donating to save Civic Stadium, and that’s wonderful,” Fennessy points out. “People already did that to save the WOW Hall, but we also have to maintain it.”


How much money does it take to save the environment? A lot, as it turns out. According to Giving USA 2014, the Annual Report on Philanthropy, Americans gave $9.72 billion to charities that focus on environment and animals in 2013. That sounds like a lot until you find out that charitable giving is up against a company like Koch Industries with a revenue of $115 billion as of October and a ranking of 13 on the Political Economy Institutes list of top 100 air polluters.

Beyond Toxics ( or 465-8860) has been fighting the good fight against air polluters, honeybee killers, chemical sprayers and more. The organization says in 2015 it will expand its organizing capacity in rural and urban communities around the state to protect low-income and minority residents from disproportionate exposure to pollution.

Your donation to Beyond Toxics saves the bees. Photo by John Jordan-Cascade.

Also on the pesticide beat is NCAP, the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides ( or 344-5044) working to protect birds, bees, salmon and people alike from toxics.

One way to combat pollution and fight climate change is by planting trees with Friends of Trees ( You can donate to this nonprofit or show up and plant some trees. The next planting is 8:45 am Saturday, Jan. 3, at Elysium Avenue and Providence Street in Eugene; call 632-3683 for more info.

The folks at Cascadia Wildlands ( or 434-1463) get a shout-out for their efforts to keep big trees standing and wolves howling across Oregon as well as their battle to stop a land-grabbing dangerous liquefied natural gas export facility in Coos Bay. The LNG terminal isn’t that far from the Elliott State Forest, long one of Cascadia Wildlands’ projects and one where the efforts might be coming to fruition now that the State Land Board has decided to look for ways to sell the land yet keep it public. Campaign director Josh Laughlin says this could mean “a lasting solution for the Elliott State Forests that protects its outstanding water quality, salmon and wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities.”

Laughlin adds, “We will continue to work diligently with stakeholders until a plan is in place that safeguards this outstanding rainforest while at the same time meets its Common School Fund obligation.” A donation to Cascadia Wildlands facilitates that work.

You can’t talk about saving the Elliott without talking about the Cascadia Forest Defenders ( and their protests, skits, lockdowns and treesits that spark even the attention of media-weary Oregonians. (And to donate to the folks who keep the Forest Defenders see the CLDC in our Civics section).

Also on the tree-hugging frontlines is Oregon Wild ( or 344-0675) fighting to save Oregon’s old-growth forests since 1979.

McKenzie River Trust ( 345-2799) goes above and beyond to protect and restore our rivers and lands through which they flow. A donation to MRT is a donation to clean water, healthy salmon, wetlands and “deep, complex relationships between rivers and communities.”

ELAW aids the Jamaica Environment Trust in cleaning up the beach. Photo courtesy of ELAW.

Saving the environment involves as much legal wrangling as it does boots on the ground, and Eugene is home to the offices of Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide ( or 687-8454), which does a lot of both. According to ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson, “All of us share a single planet, so we are glad that Eugene’s own ELAW is helping environmental heroes in 70 countries around the world fight to protect that planet and chart a sustainable future.”

Johnson says, “ELAW is right in the middle of critical environmental battles all over the world: challenging bad coal-fired power plants in India, protecting critical mangrove ecosystems in the Yucatan, getting lead out of paint in Tanzania and many more.”

Your donations to ELAW help the Eugene team partner with grassroots advocates all over the world.

Did we forget an excellent nonprofit? Let us know. And thank you to everyone who filled our barrels with donations of clothing to the Egan Warming Center.