Volunteer Opportunities at FOCUS Churches of Albany

One of the great strengths of FOCUS is the contribution from all of our many volunteers!

We enjoy and encourage each volunteer’s individual gift(s) and endeavor to match up your skills with the matching service.

We couldn’t have FOCUS without our FOCUS Volunteers!

Please make sure you have first filled out and submitted a volunteer application with Belinda.


Dear FOCUS Volunteers,
The Regional Food Bank has informed us that all direct service staff and volunteers must receive training in Civil Rights coverage and compliance.  The training involves reading a booklet of 48 power point slides.  You may read a copy online using the link below or you may borrow a booklet at the FOCUS Food Pantry or Breakfast Club.
When you have finished reading the material, you will sign an attendance sheet to acknowledge your training.  Please ask Lorraine or Judy if you have any questions or need assistance.Thank you for helping us complete this important task.


Volunteer Opportunity: FOCUS Winter Breakfast Program

Breakfast Program Roles & Responsibilities

  • COOKS (Winter Breakfast; 2 per day): Prepare hot meal and side dishes (oatmeal/grits, meat). Cleans Griddle.
  • DISHWASHER (1 per day): Loads and empties dishwasher, runs disposal, helps wash pots. Must receive “dishwashing 101” training prior to use.
  • SERVERS (3 per day): Take hot meal orders from guests, serve hot meals, remind guests to bus their dishes when finished, encourage guests to move to side chairs after meal in order to free up table for those who haven’t eaten yet.
  • COFFEE MAKER (1 per day): Makes continuous pots of coffee, replenishes pots in the dining room when needed. Brings clean dishes/silverware out to fellowship hall.
  • LUNCHMAKERS Make sandwiches and prepare lunch bags with assorted items, according to the direction of the Food Manager, Becca Leet. Guests may take ONE lunch per person and are asked to sign the lunch list. Guests may not take lunches for others who are not present.
  • FLOATERS Keep side tables clean, refill items on serving tables, clean up spills, wrap utensils, and other tasks as assigned by the Breakfast Coordinator.
  • CLEANUP We ask everyone to pitch in! Kitchen cleaning, reconfiguring the hall as needed, and breaking down boxes.
  • SUBSTITUTES Volunteers who are not on the regular schedule but who can fill-in from time to time. DRIVERS Volunteers who do food pickup at the Regional Food Bank and deliver to the church.

Volunteer Opportunity: FOCUS Interfaith Food Pantry

The Food Pantry depends on the support of many community volunteers for its operation.  On any given day that the pantry is open, a minimum of 3 volunteers are needed  to interview guests who are seeking food assistance, pack bags and pass out food. Volunteers are also needed for picking up food orders from the Regional Food Bank, unloading deliveries, data entry, and helping guests with Food Stamp enrollment.

FOCUS Interfaith Food Pantry Roles & Responsibilities  (including Food Handling Descriptions)

  • CHECKING -IN VOLUNTEER ( 1 per day):

Every volunteer interested in computer intake will be thoroughly  trained.  After each   guest takes a number, they must show proof of address and ID for every adult household member every visit and a form of ID for all children every visit.  Enter all names and dates of birth for all household members in the computer database. Adults & Children that have no valid ID and /or proof of address cannot be entered into the computer.  Only individuals with correct documents may be entered into the database. Type any other pertinent information in the notes. If this is the guests first visit, they may have a milk card. Families of 1-2 receive a ½ gallon, families of 3 or more may receive 1 gallon.

Start the client choice sheet by filling in the top with their name, date, pantry number and household number.  You may send the guest into the middle of pantry where their client choice food selection will take place. No milk cards are given on the second visit.

  • FOOD CHOICE VOLUNTEER ( 1 per day):

Read the items available and mark them clearly in each box if each guest wants each item, and to make a choice when one is available. They are permitted 2 personal care items each month. Read the list to each guest and write the choice in the space provided. The next step is the “extra” item they may also have, which is listed on the specials list.  If there are small children ask each guest if they need diapers, baby food or formula.  Have them move on to the produce that is in the glass door cooler; hand the client choice sheet to whomever is packing produce that day.  Families that are in need of a second visit per month do not get the personal items or extra items but they may have produce.

  • PRODUCE & BREAD VOLUNTEER ( 1 per day):

Each guest may pick out their own bread. Some days there will be limits, some days there won’t be. Hand out produce according to family size. We are offering our guests  produce choices of whatever is available that day.  Please refer to chart on cooler door for amounts per family. For eggs – 1-2 people receive ½ dozen. 3-more may have a whole dozen.

  • PACKING VOLUNTEER  ( 1 per day):

Carefully follow pantry guidelines for amounts of each item.  Amounts are in accordance to the USDA and the NYS Department of Health.  It may look like the pantry is stocked with ample amounts but please remember we are serving over 350 families each month and ordering is done with that in mind. Do not exceed posted guidelines.

Please refrain from engaging guests in item choices. The selection sheet has item choices; guests should not be asking the packer for specific items. Guests are not allowed in packing area.

Additional Food Pantry Information:


On occasion there may be some perishable items (bread and produce) that will spoil if not used immediately.  Please check with Pantry Manager when it is appropriate to give out excess items.


  • Check all food items (cans, dry goods, dairy products, baby food and formula) for expiration dates. Do not give out expired products.
  • Check with Lorraine for dented or unlabeled can protocol.
  • Produce that has blemishes can still be used.
  • Rotten fruit and vegetables are to be placed (without wrappers, twists, etc.) into compost bin.
  • Moldy or expired bread needs to be bagged separately for disposal.  Check with Lorraine where to throw it out.
  • No wet garbage or food items are to go in any of the pantry trash cans (including fruit peels).


Parking is permitted in the center of Westminster parking lot on Chestnut St (do not park in reserved spots). If you need a “FOCUS” volunteer tag for your windshield please let Lorraine know and she will give one to you. There is NO parking in the driveway in front of the pantry door (deliveries arrive at all times of the day and we need the space clear for them to get in and out).

FOCUS pantry tags are to be used for parking only when you are volunteering at a FOCUS program.

Taking Food Home

Unless you are utilizing the pantry once a month as a pantry guest, no one is allowed to take anything out of the pantry without staff permission. You may not pack your own bags; someone else in the pantry needs to do that for you.

Dress Code

Dress casually. You represent “FOCUS” Churches and when working in the pantry, we are in a church. No torn pants, shirts, miniskirts, mini dresses, cleavage, see through tops (You get it, right?) Don’t wear anything really good either, we are working with food & vegetables and sometimes you can get a little dirty. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes!


If you are helping unpack food or stocking shelves, any box that is opened needs to be broken down, we cannot put un-broken down boxes in the trash on the other side of the church. If you are having trouble breaking down a box just yell, one of us will help! We also can’t put any food items in the trash; the waste baskets are for dry items ONLY. There is a separate container for compost. This container is for rotten produce ONLY. No paper or bread, produce only.  Stale or unusable bread belongs in a box in the hallway marked “DISCARDED BREAD.”

Building Use

  • Volunteers and Guests are to remain within pantry spaces.
  • All space issues are to be directed to Pantry Manager.
  • Heating the pantry space is a challenging issue in the cold weather.  Please be conscious of keeping inside and outside pantry doors closed as much as possible.

Guest Relations

  • Expectations of Guests, Volunteer and Staff behavior are posted in the pantry. Pantry Guests are not to have access to the bathroom (except under extenuating circumstance). Public bathrooms are located down the block at the Alfred E. Smith building.
  • Volunteers are not to give pantry guests transportation (due to liability), money, or other items (clothing, household) without discussion with pantry manager.
  • Please share Resource Guide with guests if they are in need of resources other than pantry food.

I hope this will help all of us work more unified and as a team, and answered some questions some of you had. If you have any other questions at all, please feel free to call me (Lorraine Houk) anytime and if I don’t know the answer I will find Rev. Jim to get it.