For the safety of our clients, staff, and volunteers, the Board of Directors requires that all onsite volunteers be vaccinated for Covid-19. All volunteers must complete and turn in a Covid-19 vaccination attestation to work alongside us. Please join -- or rejoin -- our team today! 

How to Volunteer

Connect with the community. Serve your neighbors. Fight poverty and end homelessness.
There’s a volunteer opportunity for everyone. Find your fit.

Fill out volunteer application

ways to help

Click on the titles below for more details.

Serve Dinner in the Community Cafe

Typically, volunteer groups plan and purchase items for the dinner menu to accommodate 250 diners, prepare the food on UMD’s campus, and serve the meal to individuals and families who dine indoors. Volunteers may opt to prepare meals off-site, deliver them to UMD, and serve or not serve.

Regardless of which method you choose, please make sure to coordinate your plans with Viki Baker at [email protected].
Purchase meal / Prepare at UMD / Serve at UMD
Purchase meal / Prepare off-site / Deliver to UMD / Serve or not serve at UMD
**All volunteers on campus must wash their hands and attest that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, please observe protocols and find a substitute volunteer or give us a call.**

Lead a drive

Collect specific items we request with your faith community, book club, neighborhood association or other group of nice people. 

Large donations collected through drives help sustain UMD's supply of goods to share with our community.

Read instructions carefully, and contact Viki Baker, [email protected], before you begin or advertise your drive.

Restock Clothing

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 to bring down clothing for the racks. Training is required.

Pickup Bread

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

Sort Clothing

Inspect donated clothing to meet our dignity standards before items are offered to our neighbors. We’ll train you on the sorting process, and then we can offer flexible schedules for you to come in and sort! Highly qualified sorters can also supervise small groups in the sorting room.

Help staff the clothing closet and food pantry

Help UMD staff serve low-resource households each weekday in our Food Pantry and Clothing Closet. This is a client-facing position and specialized training is required. We ask you to commit to working weekly or twice a month. We offer morning, mid-afternoon, and early evening shifts based on the day of the week.

Bake Casseroles

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 partially cooked 9x13 breakfast casseroles (recipes or you can use your own). Coordinate delivery with Viki Baker, [email protected].

Pack Lunches: Sandwiches and/or sides

Pack sandwiches and/or sides items for lunches! 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 that we can coordinate with other donations.

Click  to see what to pack for lunches

Sweet (cookies, pound cake, brownie, etc.) in zip-top plastic bag.
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!
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.
Snack (pretzels, chips, granola bar, etc.) in zip-top plastic bag.

Bag Laundry Pods

Purchase economy size boxes of laundry pods. Put 10 in a zip-top bag and label "laundry detergent." Contact Viki Baker for more detailed instructions and when you plan to deliver.

Make Move-out kits

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:

Click to see move-out kit items

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
Washcloths and towels in good condition
Working table lamps with undamaged shade
Countertop appliances such as toaster, microwave, or coffee maker

Help for the holidays

UMD provides holiday presents for adults staying in our shelter that make navigating homelessness a little easier. We also create a Toy Shop and Parent Shop for families staying in our nine family rooms with new, community-donated, 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. Please check with Viki Baker, [email protected] in advance if you would like to help with any of the holiday preparations! See more information on our Help For The Holidays page.

Custom Group Projects

We may have special, one-time projects such as cleaning, organizing, and 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: [email protected] or (919) 682-0538, ext. 5031.

Options for kids

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 hygiene 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.


Purchase powdered milk or bulk rice. Then from home or when scheduled at UMD, put the recommended amount of powdered milk or rice into a zip-top bag and label with mixing/cooking directions.

For a great volunteer experience, try these best practices when interacting with your neighbors in need.

Download and sign our Do’s and Don’ts

Sign up to volunteer


Covid 19 Information

All volunteers working on campus must be vaccinated against COVID 19. If you are a current volunteer, please complete the Covid-19 Vaccine Attestation Form


Please read UMD's policies to arrange this type of community service. 

Interested? Contact Viki Baker ([email protected] or 919-682-0538 ext. 5031). Note: All individuals performing court-ordered community service at UMD must attest that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

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