Volunteer Handbook

Volunteer Handbook

Thank you for your interest in volunteering at Blanchet House! Volunteers like you are integral to our mission of offering meals and clothing to alleviate suffering in the community. The information in this handbook is required reading prior to signing up and will help to ensure that you have an enjoyable and safe volunteer experience.  

Update 08/19/21: COVID vaccinations are required to volunteer on-site.

To sign up to volunteer at Blanchet House please complete the online orientation which includes the following:

  1. Read the online volunteer handbook (this page)
  2. Watch the required Oregon Food Bank training videos (bottom of page)
  3. Sign the waivers (bottom of page)
  4. Click the sign-up button to go to our scheduling portal (bottom of page)

This orientation process will take approximately 1 hour. All volunteers, whether it’s their first time or their hundredth time volunteering, must complete all steps of the required orientation, sign the updated waivers, and provide proof of COVID vaccination.


Who We Serve

Guests wait in line for a to-go meal at Blanchet House. Photo by Justin Katigbak

Guests wait in line for a to-go meal at Blanchet House. Photo by Justin Katigbak

Blanchet House serves anyone in need of a meal—no questions asked—and will continue to do so as long as the need exists. We believe that differences in housing, substance dependency, income, physical or mental ability do not diminish the inherent dignity of every human being. 


We want everyone to feel welcome and safe when they visit Blanchet House of Hospitality. We respect the privacy of our meal guests by not asking them personal questions that might make them uncomfortable. We meet them where they are and serve them as our guests.  


The many social service agencies in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood offer aid and support to people who may be experiencing homelessness, living with physical and mental disabilities, have addictions to or reliance on chemical substances, or are struggling with poverty and insubstantial income. Some of our meal guests may be in the midst of a mental health crisis. We always stay positive, compassionate, and supportive. 


Learn more about the causes and history of homelessness in Portland.


Non-Discrimination Policy

The Blanchet House does not judge, discriminate or tolerate discriminatory behavior based on race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, disability, veteran status or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law. This policy applies to all Blanchet House guests, program recipients, volunteers, community members, supporters, staff and board members.

History of Blanchet House

The Blanchet House of Hospitality was founded by University of Portland alumni who believed that they had an obligation to help those suffering, exiled, hungry and forsaken. 



Under the guidance of Father Francis Kennard, who was inspired by Houses of Hospitality created by the Catholic Worker’s Movement, a group of young men opened the Blanchet House of Hospitality to serve those in need. The founders, who were all University of Portland alumni, took the name Blanchet from the first Archbishop of Oregon, Norbert Blanchet. On Feb. 11, 1952, the doors were opened and anyone wanting a meal was invited in as a guest to enjoy beans, bread, and coffee served by volunteers. A few years later, they purchased the building and converted the floors above the dining room into short-term housing units for men who, in exchange for room and board, would work in the kitchen and help serve.


A decade after opening, Blanchet House had become an important institution in the social fabric of Portland. Word on the street spread to those in need. The number of meals served increased, thanks in part to the addition of a full-time executive director named Al Riley. He served for 38 years without pay. Riley and the board knew that there was a need for a place away from downtown Portland where people struggling with addiction could escape the temptations of the city. Money was raised to purchase a prune farm in Yamhill County. They built dormitories, barns for animals, and a wood shop. There is now room for 22 men to live at Blanchet Farm within a program designed to facilitate recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. 


After nearly 10 years of fundraising, the Blanchet House board was able to build and open a new, LEED platinum-certified building in 2012. The capacity to feed, clothe, and house those in need was significantly increased. Blanchet House now serves an average of 1,200 meals a day and offers restorative housing to hundreds of men.


Who Can Volunteer?

Compassionate people who are:


Blanchet House cannot accept court-mandated volunteer hours because doing so would overwhelm our volunteer schedule and leave too little opportunity for volunteers not under a court mandate to volunteer. Blanchet House staff are not authorized to sign court-mandated verifications.

Types of Volunteer Work

Volunteer jobs include: 

  • Plating food in the kitchen 
  • Serving meals to guests 
  • Light cleaning and busing
  • Preparing food in the kitchen
  • Organizing and handing out clothing 
  • Pouring and serving drinks
  • Rolling forks or spoons
  • Cooking meals – professional chefs welcome 

Volunteer Shifts

Volunteer shifts are Monday-Saturday. You can sign up for volunteer shifts after reading this handbook, watching the required videos, and filling out both waivers. You can choose a volunteer shift up to three months in advance.  Volunteers must be signed up to serve. Please do not bring a guest who is not also signed up. 


Meal Shifts 

Breakfast 6:30 – 7:30 am

Lunch 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Dinner 5-6 pm


Guest Chef Shifts (food and clothing) 

AM Chef Shift – 9:30-12:30

PM Chef Shift – 2:00-6:00

Email us at volunteer@blanchethouse.org.


Sort Clothing and Food Prep Shifts

PM Clothing Closet and Food Prep – 1:30-4:30



Wait List 

If you’re on a waitlist do not plan on serving unless we notify you. We will let you know at least 24 hours prior to the shift start. 



Email us to register. If your group is three or fewer members, sign up individually. COVID protocols limit groups to no more than five members. 

Earning Volunteer Hours

If you need a signed confirmation of your volunteer service hours please notify our Volunteer Manager or Morning Services Manager when you arrive for your shift.  We welcome students completing services hours for school. Please discuss any extra requirements you have with staff on arrival.

  • You must bring your paperwork with you on the day of service.
  • We cannot verify the hours after the service date.
  • Blanchet House cannot accept court-mandated volunteer hours because doing so would overwhelm our volunteer schedule and leave too little opportunity for volunteers not under a court mandate to volunteer. Blanchet House staff are not authorized to sign court-mandated verifications.


Email us at volunteer@blanchethouse.org with any questions. 

Other Ways to Volunteer

If you or a group are unable to volunteer at our facility there are many alternative volunteer options. 


The Blanchet House of Hospitality strives to create a space that is safe and welcoming for both meal guests and volunteers.


Be Welcoming! Say ‘Hello’ to each guest you serve. Smile. You may be the only friendly face that they encounter that day. Remember that you are representing Blanchet House. 


Did a guest ask for something? Let the Volunteer Manager or another staff member know. 


DO NOT ask residents of Blanchet House or guests about their personal lives or why they are at Blanchet House. It is their right to choose to share their stories. Many people prefer privacy.

DO NOT take pictures of meal guests. Please respect their dignity and privacy. Please put cell phones away during the meal service. 

DO NOT ARGUE WITH GUESTS. If there is a disruption please follow the safety guidelines below.

DO NOT TOUCH PEOPLE OR THEIR BELONGINGS. This includes Blanchet House residents and staff. It is difficult to know how someone might react to physical contact. Some of the people that we serve have experienced physical trauma and are sensitive to being touched.

DO NOT SHARE PERSONAL INFORMATION such as your address or telephone number.

  • Share first names only. Many of our residents and guests are working on respecting appropriate boundaries. 
  • Do not friend guests or residents on social media.

We greatly appreciate your cooperation!

Trauma-Informed Service

Many guests of Blanchet House have experienced trauma and may be triggered by negative interactions or conflict. As a volunteer, you can help de-escalate situations and avoid conflict by following these guidelines.

  • Avoid saying “no.” Try offering an alternative instead like: “I’m sorry we’re out of milk right now, but we might have more tomorrow. Would you like water instead?”
  • Avoid judgmental statements, such as: “Your coat looks really ragged, would you like a new one?” Instead say, “I have coats to give out. Would you like one?”
  • Avoid being defensive. Rather than saying: “I’m just a volunteer. I’m doing the best I can.” Instead say, “I appreciate your disappointment. Is there something else I can get for you?”

Disruptions and Behavior Issues

Our guests are usually very respectful, however, you may hear or see inappropriate language and behavior. Please immediately alert the Volunteer Manager or staff member if you observe anything that makes you feel unsafe.


If someone is causing a disruption it is best to:

  • Continue carrying out your job duty. Let a staff member address the issue.
  • Do not stare at or engage a guest who might be experiencing a mental health or behavioral crisis.


If someone is causing a disruption and you feel unsafe it is best to:

  • Move into the kitchen if a guest is acting out or if you feel uncomfortable.
  • Always follow the directions of the Volunteer Manager and staff.
  • Do not yell at our guests or try to “fix” the situation.

Dress Code

Please dress appropriately for working in a professional kitchen. Our guests and residents could react negatively to inappropriate or explicit clothing. It is best to dress conservatively. 



  • COVID19 protocols require you to wear a mask. See all guidelines.
  • Close-toed shoes (NO sandals or flip-flops). 
  • Tying back of long hair. 
  • Good personal hygiene. 



  • Clothing that is low-cut, too revealing, too short, or excessively tight. No bare midriff or shoulders. 
  • NO explicit shirts or hats. 
  • NO violent images or hate speech.
  • NO drug or alcohol imagery. Many of our residents are in recovery and may react negatively to such imagery.

Volunteer Suspension

We greatly value everyone who gives their time to volunteer at Blanchet House. However, we reserve the right to cancel scheduled volunteer dates when it is necessary to maintain smooth and effective operations. 



We reserve the right to turn volunteers away. This will not be done lightly, and only in specific circumstances. These circumstances are: 

  • Arriving to volunteer without registering. This includes volunteers who are on the waitlist. COVID protocols require we closely monitor the number of volunteers in our facility. 
  • Groups who bring more volunteers than the agreed-upon number.  
  • Individuals under 14 years old. 



In rare circumstances, the Volunteer Manager or Executive Director may place volunteers or groups on suspension from serving. These circumstances include, but are not limited to: 

  • Exhibiting poor or inappropriate behavior during meal services. 
  • Unwillingness to follow directions or argumentative behavior. 
  • Repeated tardiness or canceling. 
  • Non-attendance on registered dates. 

If you or your group is suspended, you or the group leader must meet with the Volunteer Manager in person to discuss reinstatement before registering for future dates. 


All volunteers must watch the following videos.

Food Safety

Our partner Oregon Food Bank requires all volunteers to watch the following video:

Food Safety

Video length: 16 minutes

Civil Rights

Our partner Oregon Food Bank requires all volunteers to watch the following video:

Civil Rights

Video length: 21 minutes


All volunteers must e-sign this waiver and this code of conduct. Volunteers under 18 must have a parent or guardian e-sign the waiver.

Submit proof of COVID vaccination.


To register to volunteer, you will use our scheduling software called CERVIS. You will create a profile and sign up for volunteer shifts.

Click the orange button to sign up AFTER you have:

  1. Read the handbook completely
  2. Watched the required videos
  3. Signed both waivers
  4. Submitted proof of COVID vaccination

Questions? Email our Volunteer Manager at volunteer@blanchethouse.org.

Need Help Signing Up?

Watch a video