Grass Valley, Calif. (Aug. 29, 2022) – Hospitality House is currently on a quest for dedicated volunteers to join its family, with an emphasis on volunteer support in addressing hunger and food insecurity at its homeless shelter, Utah’s Place.

Positions of purpose include cooking in the kitchen (as a single or with one’s own group), grocery shopping, meal delivery, and/or dishwashing. Hospitality House is currently looking for people who can volunteer on a consistent basis: once a month, once a week, etc. as mutually agreed upon.

“We can cook and have fun and we all know each other but when it comes to serving the guests, I get to look in their face … and I realize not how fortunate I am, but how much humanity means to me,” explained Jerianne Van Dijk, long-time volunteer cook.  “These people have real, internal pain and they are lost. I get that. I’ve been in some real poverty … and I remember anyone helping changed everything, so I thought, if I want to be a person for change, it’s simply: help your neighbor.”

No prior kitchen or cooking experience is required, and all volunteer positions are customizable to best meet each individual’s comfort level and ability to give. Currently, some individuals have formed their own teams (group of friends, businesses, churches, etc.) who come in once a month on a set schedule with their own donated food and cook and serve a dinner of their choosing for the entire shelter. Support from Culinary Assistant Brian Bliss of Hospitality House is provided as needed or requested. Those unable to form their own group or donate food are still invited to come in and help cook with friends or as individuals alongside Bliss.

The Repeat Offenders, a volunteer cook group, come in every month to cook and serve for guests. Photo by Jessica Solis-Hernandez of Hospitality House.

“Even if you have no prior experience but want to help, there is always chopping to do or washing vegetables,” said Bliss. “I am fortunate to have a handful of loyal volunteers who support me on a consistent basis, along with the guests in the shelter until they get housed. But, if anyone would like to give me an extra hand, I would greatly appreciate it.”

Those unable to cook can still create impact by helping with dishwashing needs; by delivering meals from the shelter to Sierra Guest Home (Hospitality House’s low-income housing complex); or by going on grocery store runs for ongoing food needs. Volunteers who shop for the shelter are provided a grocery list and are reimbursed for expenses. Those unable to volunteer are also invited to sponsor a meal by prearranging the ordering of pizzas or other types of meals. Making a donation to cover the cost of meals is also welcomed.

At peak during the pandemic, Hospitality House was serving meals to over 100 people a day at multiple locations, including Utah’s Place, motels, and Sierra Guest Home. Last fiscal year, Hospitality House served 718 unique individuals and provided 77,840 meals.

Pre-pandemic, the nonprofit homeless shelter and housing provider had a dedicated volunteer workforce of approximately 300 people; however, when the pandemic hit, Hospitality House had no choice but to suspend its volunteer program. Fortunately, many volunteers gave financial support in lieu of cooking in person and some continue this model today.

When the shelter finally reopened its volunteer program in April 2022 with new safety protocols in place to mitigate illness, many volunteers were unable to return or feared returning due to COVID-19. The loss of volunteers continues to be a major impediment to Hospitality House’s food program, which was founded by volunteers and sustained by volunteers for years.

“Volunteers have always been the backbone of Hospitality House and our goal is to re-energize our food program while embracing Public Health best practices. We hope to inspire former volunteers to return and new volunteers to join our circle of community caring. Together, we will make lasting impacts,” concluded Nancy Baglietto, executive director of Hospitality House.

Safety regulations are in place to volunteer and restrictions apply. In addition to the culinary program, volunteer opportunities include major events, such as the upcoming artist-driven Empty Bowl benefit, transportation and administrative support. To take the first step in becoming a Hospitality House volunteer, fill out an application at https://hhshelter.org/volunteer/. Those with questions about opportunities may also call (530) 615-0852 or email info@hhshelter.org.

About Hospitality House
The mission of Hospitality House is to bring homeless people in Nevada County into a circle of community caring that offers shelter, sustenance, advocacy, opportunity, dignity, and hope as they transition from homelessness to housing. For more information about Hospitality House, visit 
hhshelter.org.