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Volunteering Throughout the Pandemic

Jenna Egan  | Published on 2/4/2021

Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP), is a human services nonprofit serving struggling families and individuals in the Twin Cities, specifically the western suburbs of Minneapolis. A food shelf, reuse store, employment and housing support are just a few out of the many services offered by IOCP. The nonprofit wouldn’t be able to offer the services they do without the support of volunteers. 


Volunteers were virtually halted at IOCP as COVID swept across the state and MN residents were asked to stay home. However, ICOP was classified as ‘essential’ to provide assistance to the western suburb residents struggling with basic needs. 


Waves of Volunteers 

The staff at IOCP worked at food shelf, along with a small number of committed volunteers. IOCP created food shelf teams - individuals volunteered with the same people each time. Their own volunteer pod to help prevent the spread of COVID and to meet the needs of area residents. 


During the summer, IOCP were able to bring back more volunteers as their indoor food shelf was changed to an outdoor food box drive-thru, providing social distance for everyone. Slowly more and more programs and services opened as IOCP created COVID protocols for their organization and volunteers such as: 

  • Masks required 

  • Health questionnaire and temperature check upon entry 

  • Consecutive volunteering – volunteers are not permitted to volunteers two days in a row 

  • Volunteer teams – volunteering with the same people at the same date and time 

  • Social distanced – specific volunteering areas/spaces with barriers like plexiglass  

New Types of Volunteers  

Before the pandemic, ICOP had a high population of older adult volunteers. Volunteers had regular and committed dates and times throughout the year for years. Today, IOCP are seeing an increase in younger faces and one-time volunteers. In fact, due to volunteers wanting to give their time once at the organization, IOCP restructured their volunteer orientations to require less time and barriers. They also hope this new orientation and training will increase their pool of volunteers, as their older adult volunteers continue to stay at home and wait for their turn to become vaccinated. 


To learn more about Interfaith Outreach Community Partners visit: iocp.org