Volunteers donate 3800 hours of service each month

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Important updates related to COVID-19

All volunteers who participate on our campus must attest that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. You can link to that attestation form here. If you cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons or prefer not to be, we look forward to having you back as soon as federal guidelines change. All volunteers, staff, and clients must continue to wear masks on campus regardless of their vaccination status until mandates for homeless shelters are amended.

Due to the pandemic, many of the volunteer opportunities on this page are not currently available. The volunteer positions we DO need help with right now are:

  • Cafe meal service
  • Outdoor food distribution
  • Casserole baker

If you would like to join our team, please complete our volunteer application. 


Clothing restocker

Monday to Friday, for 2 to 3 hours on the same day each week. As this job takes two volunteers, coordinating the time is important so that both volunteers are there together. Straighten up the Clothing Closet and restock it to be ready for the next day’s services. Must be able to lift 10 pounds and go up and down stairs a few times each shift to bring down clothing for the racks. 


Pick up bread and pastries donated by two nearby Durham businesses any time between 7 and 10 am. Must have vehicle. Regular, weekly commitment and substitute drivers needed.

Community Cafe meal serving group 

Group of 8 people needed. The majority of meal serving slots for the year are booked by groups who have been doing this for years, but there are always openings for:  

DINNER – You need to provide the food, as well as prepare and serve for 250 people. Random dates. Mostly weeknights.

HOLIDAYS – Groups serving regularly typically want to take holidays off.

FIFTHS OF THE MONTH – As this occurs sporatically, often we have openings for breakfast or making bag lunches.

Clothing sorter/supervisor

We always need trained volunteers with a great eye for detail to inspect donated clothing. Once trained, you have lots of flexibility in when and how often you come sort. Highly qualified sorters could also periodically supervise a group if available. 

Clothing or food drive leader

Collect specific items we request with your faith community, book club, neighborhood association or other group of nice people. Please email Viki Baker, vbaker@umdurham.org, before you begin or advertise your drive. Clothing items can be new or in excellent used condition (no tears, stains, broken zippers, missing buttons). We most need food drives March through October that collect these items -- in particular fresh fruits and vegetables. We also give out toilet paper, laundry detergent or pods, NEW underwear and NEW socks. Any help with these is greatly appreciated.

Clothing closet and food pantry services helper 

Help UMD staff serve low-resource households each weekday in our Food Pantry and Clothing Closet. Training is required and we ask you to commit to working weekly or twice a month. NEW hours for this operation began October 2, 2017, offering morning, mid-afternoon and early evening shifts based on the day of the week.  

Data enterer

Enter information about volunteer hours and item donations into our computer database. Accuracy and comfort using a computer needed, and training is required. Ideally, we want a commitment of 2-3 hours every week.

Casserole cook or coordinator

Make and freeze a casserole in a disposable aluminum pan with ingredients and warming instructions using freezer tape on the outside. Our Food Pantry distributes fully cooked family size dinner casseroles (recipes) as a homemade extra meal that can be heated quickly. The Community Cafe needs 9x13 breakfast casseroles (recipes) partially cooked., or you can use your own. Coordinate delivery with Viki Baker, vbaker@umdurham.org

Sandwich or bag lunch preparer   

We hand out about 250 bag lunches every Monday through Friday morning at breakfast so clients will have their midday meal no matter where work or appointments take them in Durham. Instead of pre-packing a bag lunch, we now let clients select only what they want, reducing food waste. You can help by donating any amount of the following—preferably early in the week. Please email Viki Baker, in advance so we can coordinate with other donations.

  • Sandwich in zip-top plastic bag. Include a protein (peanut butter, ham, cheese, etc.). No condiments on the sandwich, please, so they’ll keep for hours without refrigeration; packets on the side are great.
  • Piece of fresh fruit, individual fruit cup OR small bag of fresh, cut vegetables. Dipping sauce/salad dressing in individual 2 ounce soufflé cup with lid is a bonus!
  • Snack (pretzels, chips, granola bar, etc.) in zip-top plastic bag.
  • Sweet (cookies, pound cake, brownie, etc.) in zip-top plastic bag.

Encouraging note writer 

Encourage and inspire neighbors by inscribing positive or motivational messages and drawings on the paper lunch bags used to distribute weekday lunches, or on index cards that can be included in hygeine kits distributed from the Food Pantry.  These need to be non-religious, as UMD embraces all faiths. For a bag, they must be a #6 (most easily purchased at Not Just Paper on 9th Street in Durham). Just fold the bag in half and then write or draw on the bottom half so your message or drawing will show after the bag is filled and rolled.

Powdered milk or laundry pod packager

Purchase powdered milk. Then from home or when scheduled at UMD, put the recommended amount of powdered milk into a zip-top bag and label with mixing directions. Or purchase economy size boxes of laundry pods. Put 10 in a zip-top bag and label "laundry detergent." Any amount will be a great help! Contact Viki Baker for more detailed instructions and when you plan to deliver.

Hygiene kit hero

We try to hand out hygiene kits to all the clients who visit our food pantry and clothing closet, about 130 kits each week. Any quantity you can make would help. It is important that your kit includes all of the requested items and that they are unopened and full. Here is what goes into each kit. You are welcome to check with Viki Baker in advance to see if UMD has a surplus of any of these items that you can include. Also, dentists are very open to giving those who ask extra toothbrushes and toothpaste.

  • Gallon size zip-top bag
  • Soap – 1 regular bar or 2 small bars
  • Shampoo – 2 hotel size or 1 small bottle
  • Conditioner – 2 hotel size or 1 small bottle
  • Lotion – hotel size or larger container that fits in the bag
  • Deodorant –1.8 oz. size
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste – small tube (2.8 oz.) or full size preferred (tube only; please discard the box)
  • Wash cloth
  • Disposable razor
  • Shaving cream – 6 oz (Barbasol brand generally has the best price)

OPTIONAL additions if they are NEW and UNOPENED that are greatly appreciated:

  • Dental floss
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Mints, lip balm
  • First aid items (no medications)
  • Qtips, cotton balls
  • Shower "scrubbies," shower caps
  • Combs, brushes

Move-Out kit maker

Clients are moving into their own apartments, thanks to job training programs leading to employment and landlords partnering with UMD. It is a very exciting time, but people leaving homelessness often lack some of the basics to set up their households, and their incomes are limited. You can help by providing any of these things in new or excellent used condition:

  • Basic pots and pans
  • Dishes and cups (no cracks or chips)
  • Glasses (no alcohol logos please)
  • Flatware and serving/cooking utensils
  • Blankets (single or double sizes only; no throws)
  • Twin, full and queen size sheets only
  • Bed pillows (new in package only)
  • Washcloths and towels in good condition
  • Working table lamps with undamaged shade
  • Countertop appliances such as toaster, microwave, or coffee maker


Holiday Helper

We always need help in NOVEMBER preparing for the holidays. UMD creates both a Toy Shop and a Parent Shop with new, still-in-the-package items. This allows for children to shop for their parents, and parents to shop for their children, selecting items that they want. We also collect donations of specific new items for our shelter adults at the holidays. Please check with Viki Baker in advance if you would like to help with any of the holiday preparations! ALL GIFTS MUST BE NEW AND RECEIVED BY THE END OF NOVEMBER!


Custom Group Projects 

We may have special, one-time projects such as cleaning, organizing, landscaping. Just let us know well in advance when you'll be free, how many people you’ll have, what time of the day you're available and for how long. If you can provide supplies or resources for your project, you will have many more options.

Contact Viki Baker, director of community engagement:  vbaker@umdurham.org or (919) 682-0538, x5031.