Congregations have always been important to our work at The Road Home. Recent changes have brought some adjustments to how we partner to best make a difference for families in our community.
Long-term partnerships with congregations throughout Dane County have always been central to our volunteer program. For many years, volunteers formed the backbone of our Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) shelter program. Families slept at “host” congregations while volunteers from these and “buddy” congregations provided dinner, games for children and breakfast in the morning.
In March of 2018, The Road Home phased out our family shelter program in order to focus more effectively on housing. (You can read more about this decision here.) This means we no longer need congregations to host shelter families overnight or to provide dinner for shelter guests. A few months after this transition, we moved to a new building. Because of this, we are now able to provide additional services to families such as evening classes. These additional services have created new volunteer opportunities.
While the ways we utilize volunteers has changed, the importance of volunteers to our families and the success of our programs has not. Volunteers will continue to play a critical role in making a difference for families in our community who have experienced homelessness. We are also excited to continue our partnerships with congregations—just in new and exciting ways.
The information below explains how we now partner with congregations to fill volunteer needs. As always, individuals are welcome to volunteer on their own even if they are not associated with a partner congregation. (Available volunteer opportunities for individuals and families are listed here.) In most cases, we will fit individuals into the model outlined below. There will also continue to be limited opportunities for other groups to participate in one-time projects.
Our New Volunteer Model
Our goal has been to preserve the structure of our volunteer program while adjusting it to meet our current needs. Here are some basics to help you get oriented:
Congregation Teams. We will continue to rely on our “buddy” and “host” congregations. The new system will maintain the previous relationships with the same “buddy” and “host” congregations working together as did before. These congregation groups will now be referred to as “teams” instead of “hosts” and “buddies”. You can see a list of the twelve teams here. Instead of Congregation Coordinators serving as liaisons between The Road Home and their congregations, we now call these liaisons Congregational Ambassadors.
Volunteer Calendar. Two teams are assigned to cover each month, resulting in each team being assigned two months during the calendar year. The 2019 volunteer calendar can be found here.
Monthly Team Responsibilities. During your congregation’s assigned month, we would love to have your help with a number of tasks. These could include:
*Recruiting volunteers to fill specific needs such as helping with children’s activities or providing a meal/snack for families that attend classes/workshops at our main office and housing sites.
*Organizing and conducting a wish list drive to gather some of our most needed items to be distributed to families moving into housing.
*Recruiting volunteers to help plan and organize our quarterly family gatherings for families in our housing programs.
You can find more ideas and examples of how your congregation might volunteer here. Keep in mind that our volunteer needs will look a little different each month.
The Process. Six weeks before your team’s assigned month, Alane Conn, The Road Home Volunteer Manager, will contact the Congregational Ambassadors from the assigned teams with a list of known volunteer opportunities during their month and a link to the SignUpGenius. Ambassadors will send these out to their congregation members who can then sign up for specific volunteer opportunities. Two to three months before the assigned month, Alane will provide any additional volunteer opportunities or other useful information to the Congregational Ambassadors who can again forward this on to their congregation members.
Once an individual has signed up on the SignUpGenius, Alane will communicate directly with her or him about responsibilities and with reminders. If the slots haven’t filled, Alane will open up the SignUpGenius to others, including those who have signed up individually to volunteer. At the end of month, Alane will provide a list of volunteers from that month to the Congregational Ambassadors so that they will know who volunteered during their month.
If you have any questions about this transition or how the new process works, please contact Alane Conn at email@example.com or 608-294-7998.