You need to be logged in to bookmark an article.
login | Register now | No thanks
You need to be logged in to e-mail an article.
login | Register now | No thanks

Volunteering opportunities at Columbia shelters

Six places to give back

Alyssa Goodman

Spencer Rocksmith, Scott McAfee and Kathryn Fishman-Weaver volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House.

January 23, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Opportunities for volunteering abound, and aspiring teachers, neat freaks and math-lovers alike can put their skills to work and make a difference in people’s lives. You might sacrifice some of that precious Netflix binging or a night out with friends, but just like giving the perfect gift is often better than receiving one, helping others is rewarding for the volunteer, too. “Whether it’s 10 minutes or four hours, it makes a difference,” says Vonda Cordes, a volunteer at True North for three years. “It’s a feeling of fulfillment.” Shelter coordinators say they see a drop in volunteering after the holidays as people go back to their normal routines, but a change in season doesn’t shift the need for shelters to provide support. With our guide to volunteering, you’ve officially run out of excuses to not give it a try.


Sharon Nevels and her son use the resources at the Salvation Army Harbor House. Photo by Valerie Mosley

Hours: The shelter is open 24/7, but volunteers typically work between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., along with some evenings to teach life skills classes.
Purpose: Serves singles, parents and children; Harbor House provides three meals a day, free clothing and professional case managers to work with people who are homeless to help break the cycle of poverty.
Background: In 1952, a group of Columbia citizens saw the need to help the homeless population and opened a local Salvation Army Harbor House.
How to help: Painting, cleaning, reading to children or teaching life skills classes on topics such as budgeting are various capacities for volunteers.
Volunteer requirements: Must be 18 years old to volunteer. If volunteering on a continuous basis, fill out an application and have a background check.
Location: 602 N. Ann St.
Contact: 573-442-3229


Hours: The shelter is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Can volunteer at the administrative office 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and some weekends if arranged.
Purpose: Serves children 18 and under who are abused, homeless or neglected, and homeless youth ages 17 to 21; offers shelter, counseling and support.
Background: It began in 1986 as a safe place for youth. The aim was to keep large families together temporarily in the system until a foster home was willing to take all siblings into one home. Rainbow House still provides these services.
How to help: Volunteers work in the donation room or pantry, do yard work or work directly with children.
Volunteer requirements: Must be 18 years old, fill out a volunteer application, as well as have a background check and wellness exam.
Location: 1611 Towne Drive
Contact: 573-818-8288


Hours: Open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for overnight shelter.
Purpose: Serves homeless adults during January and February.
Background: A group of local churches saw the need to provide a warm place to sleep during the coldest months of the year.
How to help: Volunteers provide meal assistance, do laundry, welcome guests or clean.
Volunteer requirements: Must be 18 years old or 14 to 17 years old with a supervised adult; must get a background check and attend training. Overnight shift volunteers (11:15 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.) must be at least 25 years old.
Location: People needing shelter will be transferred from 702 Wilkes Blvd. This year, Room at the Inn is using five different churches in a rotation for shelters.
Contact: 573-449-4363;


Hours: Open from 7 to 8:30 a.m. for breakfast; 7 to 10 p.m. for a dinner meal; overnight shelter for homeless men.
Purpose: Houses up to 14 men for overnight stays; meals are open to anyone; also provides laundry service.
Background: Columbia Catholic Workers saw that many men did not have a place to stay after having dinner at the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen, which they also operate. They created the overnight shelter to meet the need.
How to help: Volunteers assist with the evening meal and talk with guests.
Volunteer requirements: There are no requirements.
Location: 901 Rangeline St.
Contact: 573-875-4913


Hours: Open 24/7 on a hotline.
Purpose: Serves victims of sexual and domestic abuse; operates a hotline, has nurses on staff, helps with criminal cases and provides shelter.
Background: About 30 years ago, a group of MU students got together and started the original organization that evolved into True North.
How to help: Work on the hotline, process orders of protection paperwork, help with support groups and assist with child care.
Volunteer requirements: Must be 18 years old, attend 48 hours of training and have a background check.
Location: Undisclosed for privacy reasons
Contact: 573-875-0503


Hours: Opens from 7 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. for overnight shelter.
Purpose: Serves women who need emergency assistance for shelter and meals; sister shelter to St. Francis House.
Background: The Columbia Catholic Workers founded the shelter to provide emergency assistance for women and as a way to provide a safe place to stay after the meal from the organization’s soup kitchen.
How to help: If volunteers have a preference, it will be taken into consideration and accommodated if possible, but visiting with guests is always welcome.
Volunteer requirements: There are no requirements.
Location: 913 Rangeline St.
Contact: 573-875-7874

Comments on this article