The Road Home

Family Shelter Volunteers

Family shelter volunteers prepare and serve dinner to our shelter guests as well as play with children and do other activities.

Volunteer Now

man with a baby in a high chairVolunteers are the lifeblood of The Road Home’s Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) Shelter Program. Instead of having a permanent location, our shelter moves between congregations, known as host congregations, each week. Other congregations, businesses and individuals partner with them to provide and serve meals, play with children and help keep everything functioning smoothly. To learn more about our shelter, please read How Our Shelter Works.

Below we’ve described some of the specific duties of volunteers to help individuals select opportunities that might be a good fit and to help businesses and congregations understand the roles they will be filling on their turns as Host Congregations or Buddy Congregations or Businesses. To volunteer with our shelter, start by filling out a volunteer application. If you have questions, please contact Alane Conn, The Road Home Volunteer Manager, by email at or by phone at 608-294-7998 ext 306.

Work with Families

There are many ways to work directly with families in our shelter. General descriptions are included below but specifics may vary from one shelter location to another.

  • Dinner Hosts. Often 3-4 individuals each night from 5-6:30 p.m. Volunteers set tables, serve meals and eat dinner with The Road Home guests. After dinner, volunteers clean up.
  • Children’s Hosts. Often 3-4 individuals each night from 6:30-8 p.m. Volunteers spend quality time playing with children or helping them with homework. Often, congregations have activities available such as games, books and art supplies. Volunteers can also bring arts and crafts activities with them but it is not required.
  • Overnight Hosts. Usually 2 adults sleep at the shelter each night from 8 p.m.– 6 a.m. Quiet time begins at 10 p.m. when volunteers and families go to bed. Volunteers have a private place to sleep and must bring their own bedding or sleeping bags. Wake up time is 6 a.m.
  • Breakfast Hosts. Two volunteers are needed from 6 – 7:15 a.m. if the overnight hosts are unable to stay to fill this need. Volunteers set out easy breakfast foods such as cold cereal, toast and juice that are provided by the host congregation. After breakfast, the volunteers clean up the kitchen. The Road Home van driver picks families up by 7 a.m.

Work Behind the Scenes

In addition to volunteers who work with families, we also need some behind-the-scenes volunteers. General descriptions are included below but specifics may vary for each situation.

  • Coordinator. Help organize and oversee the program during the rotation week, which occurs four times each year for each host congregation. Coordinators recruit volunteers, making sure there are adequate supplies such as sack lunch items and personal items as well as being present during the week to make sure everything is set up and going smoothly. Duties can be broken down into smaller responsibilities and shared with other volunteers.
  • Prepare a Meal. Prepare dinner for guests at the shelter. This responsibility can be divided between people with someone preparing the main course, someone preparing side dishes etc. The coordinator will provide information about any menu parameters or allergies. Dinner is at 6 p.m. each night, so the meal must be delivered by 5:30 p.m. Some congregations provide reimbursements for expenses.
  • Set Up. Every Sunday after church services at the congregation have concluded, volunteers set up guests’ bedroom at their new shelter for that week. They remove classroom furniture and bring in The Road Home beds and families’ belongings.
  • Take Down. Early Sunday morning before church services begin, volunteers help remove families’ beds and belongings and set up the classrooms for Sunday School.
  • Laundry. Families do their own personal laundry but volunteers are needed to wash sheets and towels, which The Road Home loans to the congregation for the families during their week-long stay.
  • Grocery Shopper. These volunteers pick up needed items throughout the week. This might include food items that need to be restocked or specific items needed. Volunteers are sometimes reimbursed for their expenses by the host or buddy congregation or business.
  • Floater. Volunteers are needed who are willing to step in at any congregation in any of the volunteer slots on short notice. This would be a fill-in position if a congregation had a volunteer who had an emergency or if they could not find enough volunteers.