With negativity everywhere in the news making the world seem like a dark, unforgiving place, it’s important to learn about things that strengthen our faith in humanity. One of the best ways to see all the good in our local community is by looking through the nonprofits that make downtown Reno a great place to live.

The following nonprofits are just a few of the organizations committed to improving the quality of life for Reno residents and the most vulnerable among us. The Downtown Reno Partnership is here to give a brief overview of each nonprofit and show all the ways they are helping improve downtown Reno each day.

Here are some of the biggest nonprofits making a difference in our community and showing us what it means to be truly selfless:

Urban Roots

Urban Roots nonprofit garden

On Second Street, there lies an oasis. A farm that exists within the hustle and bustle of the city and acts as the perfect area for children to receive a garden-based education that can change the way they eat. This is the Urban Teaching Farm and it was created by one of Reno’s most active nonprofits, Urban Roots.

There are three core values that Urban Roots would like to emphasize for the modern youth: academic achievement, healthy eating and environmental stewardship. The nonprofit partnered with Renown Health in 2016 to turn an empty lot on Second Street into the thriving Urban Teaching Farm that exists today. This farm provides the downtown community with healthy and nutritious food alongside educational benefits for children and families.

In addition to the day camp programs Urban Roots provides at their farm, the site is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon for volunteer hours. At this time, anybody can visit the farm or participate in some community service, no appointment necessary. Weeding, harvesting and painting are just a few of the activities that families can participate in while having fun in the sun.

Urban Roots can also bring their expertise directly to the school system. Any school that’s interested can have students participate in a year-long gardening program in which Urban Roots’ team of educators generate a curriculum and come in once a week to teach students various gardening topics. Students can even build and maintain their own garden. This entire experience is in service of the goal of “making textbooks come alive” as Fayth Ross, executive director of Urban Roots, says.

Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada

Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada nonprofit clothing donation

This incredibly expansive nonprofit has been serving the community for 75 years and offers what is likely the broadest range of services of any other nonprofit in downtown Reno. These services include food resources, maternity and family services, case management, residential programs and so much more. The goal of the Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada is to provide support to people of all cultures and beliefs who are in need by giving them access to services that can help them rise out of poverty and become fully self-sufficient. On average, the Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada helps more than 20,000 individuals a month.

The Catholic Charities of Nevada has many essential core values that they carry with them into their services, the most prominent of which involve leading by example, providing hope, establishing a long-lasting legacy and operating with humanity and integrity. This nonprofit works with the goal of allowing all to thrive, no matter what disadvantages one has been dealt.

Currently, this nonprofit has at least nine programs in effect. These include a dining room/soup kitchen for the homeless population, a senior nutrition program which provides “Meals on Wheels” to the elderly in need, and the Crossroads Sober Living program in which people transitioning out of homeless and battling addiction are given housing or proper living accommodations. The Catholic Charities of Nevada is committed to valuing people as they’re meant to be valued and ensuring that everybody has a good quality of life.

Eddy House

Eddy House nonprofit safe haven

Founded in 2011 by Lynette Eddy, this nonprofit serves the primary goal of working with homeless and at-risk youth to help develop the necessary skills they need to live self-sufficiently. The Eddy House uses extensive outreach throughout the downtown area in order to identify and help homeless youth who have aged out of the foster system by providing them with a place to stay and a 24-hour Drop-In Resource Center that can direct these at-risk youths to places where they can receive medical treatment and psychological guidance.

The statistics show how necessary something like the Eddy House is for the homeless youth population, with an estimated 3,500 living in Reno alone. With homelessness comes a lot of problems for these youths, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal tendencies. Homeless youths are also highly likely to be victims of assault on the streets and are unable to keep consistent employment with nowhere to sleep at night. The Resource Center serves the purpose of combating these issues for the Reno youth by providing medical check-ups, temporary housing (with food and showers included) and employment assistance.

Lynette Eddy said it best: “The way we treat our most vulnerable is a reflection of who we are as a community. These are the community’s kids. We can’t ignore it. These kids are in a constant state of crisis and it’s a public health issue.”

The Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality

RISE food line at the shelter

This nonprofit was formed in July 2012 and serves the primary purpose of cultivating dignity and humility among the community using shared resources and mutual aid. The Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality (or RISE) is most commonly known for its RISE and Dine program, in which groups get together to serve a home-cooked meal to locals in need. This program is a great do-it-yourself project in which families, friends and neighbors can cook a meal and then physically serve it to vulnerable populations, resulting in a powerful human experience. This program takes place at the homeless shelter as it provides the homeless population the best opportunity to secure a bed for the night after finishing their meal.

Running concurrently with RISE and Dine is the Free Market, a program in which locals can donate comfort items such as clothes and toiletries. These items are then distributed by RISE while food is being cooked and served.

Everyone is welcome to volunteer for the RISE and Dine program. Volunteering with a group is encouraged due to its greater convenience in terms of cooking, transportation and serving food. Signing up is encouraged (especially for large groups) as it prevents any potential overlap in service.

Northern Nevada HOPES

Northern Nevada HOPES nonprofit office

People looking for quality health care at a reduced cost need look no further than this nonprofit community health center. Northern Nevada HOPES is committed to providing patients with access to a multitude of comprehensive services in a convenient location in downtown Reno. This nonprofit excels at reducing the barriers to care and helps improve the long-term health of those in Northern Nevada who may be uninsured. These uninsured patients can receive discounted services based on a sliding fee scale.

Northern Nevada HOPES provides a broad range of services, including adult and pediatric primary care, chronic disease management, behavioral health counseling and a pharmacy to receive medication. Most insurance plans, Medicaid, Medicare and the uninsured are all accepted and can be helped through this nonprofit. 

There are also many programs promoted and run by this community health center. One of the more prominent programs is Change Point, a legal syringe exchange service. Change Point provides syringe services, harm reduction supplies and free HIV and hepatitis-C testing. Families Talking Together is another popular program that is designed to help parents talk to their teenagers about sexual behavior in young adults. This research-based program uses a trained facilitator who educates the parents and gives them the necessary tools and advice to engage with their teenagers about reproductive health.

Northern Nevada HOPES provides services in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and German.

Community Health Alliance

Community Health Alliance nonprofit office

Like the previous nonprofit, this health center is committed to providing quality medical and dental care for people of all ages and walks of life. The Community Health Alliance has six different locations throughout the Reno-Sparks area and is the largest primary health care provider to low-income individuals and families in Northern Nevada.

In addition to primary medical and dental care, this nonprofit provides outreach and services for the homeless population along with management of chronic diseases and behavioral health care. No matter whether or not a patient is properly inured, the Community Health Alliance will provide health and direction. The health center will also help find reasonable pricing through discount programs and sliding scale payments.