Lift Urban Portland was founded in 1980 as Northwest Portland Ministries, by a group of 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 existing social services, and providing opportunities for neighborhood residents to socialize.
An early tradition, which started in 1985 and continues today, is the annual Community 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 identified the need to provide services unavailable through traditional sources. Lift Urban Portland entered a partnership with the Housing Authority of Portland (now Home Forward) to provide socialization and other services to residents of low-income apartment buildings through an “Adopt a High Rise” program. Volunteers from churches and synagogues provided community-building and enrichment activities, including social events and classes.
In December of 2007, Lift Urban Portland acquired the food pantry (now named Preston's Pantry) and with the support of donors, 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 now serves 6,849 (duplicated) people a year!
In 2016, Lift Urban Portland launched the Adopt a Building program, which provides in-building food resources to low-income building residents in Northwest and Downtown Portland. Through this program, Preston's Pantry, and Free Food Market, Lift Urban Portland distributed 222,696 pounds of food in the last year!
Lift Urban Portland was incorporated on January 30, 1986 and received its 501(c)(3) tax- exempt status in July, 1987.