The day-to-day operations of Open Doors are accomplished by numerous volunteers working in a set of activity-focused teams. Please click on any of the links to read more about what each team does.
- Donations Team: Collects and stores donations of furniture and household items, to be used later to set up apartments for arriving refugees.
- Employment Team: Assists refugees to find new or better employment opportunities.
- ESL Team: Currently provides tutoring and homework assistance to people enrolled in an ESL program through Madison College or one of our local high schools.
- Events Team: Hosts or co-hosts four major events annually, and in the last four years, has hosted or co-hosted nearly 20 one-of-a-kind public events.
- Home Supply Team: Provides basic (non-food) supplies to new arrivals every month for their first year in Madison.
- Housing Team: Locates affordable housing opportunities, answers questions about tenant rights and responsibilities, assists with rental mediation, and connects refugee community members with housing services, advice, and assistance in legal matters.
- Move-In Team: Takes those donations of furniture and household items and uses them to furnish and stock those apartments.
- Special Requests Team: Receives any request for support that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our other existing teams.
- Translation Team: Provides written (translation) and occasionally verbal (interpretation) services in several languages for our newcomers.
- Transportation Team: Helps our new neighbors get where they need to go, especially to the multitude of appointments they must attend in their first several weeks here.
- Warehouse Team: Arranges, cleans, preps, stores and manages all our donated furniture and housewares in our two donated storage spaces.
Our volunteers are amazing, and you could be one of them.
Please see our Volunteer page for more information about volunteering.
The donations team helps to collect, clean, organize, and store donations prior to them being placed in apartments for newcomers.
Donation pickups currently take place every second Tuesday of each month in the morning and every fourth Wednesday of the month in the evening, and occasionally on an as-needed basis. Pickups are done by small teams recruited from our pool of volunteers and usually require about 2-4 hours of time per pickup.
The employment team focuses on assisting refugees to find employment, whether it is their first job after arriving in the U.S. or moving up from current employment to a more desirable job.
Volunteers for this team reaches out to potential employers and connects jobseekers with opportunities. They also assist job seekers with applications, resume writing, interviewing skills, and transportation to interviews, as needed. They work closely with Forward Services, the official refugee employment service provider.
The employment team is always looking for additional volunteers to assist with this work. Volunteer engagement will most likely occur on an ad hoc basis as folks need assistance – we meet the needs as they arise, rather than maintaining one steady level of effort.
The ESL team meets with English language learners to assist with homework and provide a space for language practice. This team works with adult learners and generally pairs volunteers up with a learner for one-on-one engagement at a likely minimum time of one hour a week.
Since COVID started this team has been carrying out almost all of their activities remotely. While our mission is to support refugees, this team mostly works in support of existing school programs and therefore volunteers may be paired to work with English language learners outside of the refugee community.
The events team plans, coordinates, and runs Open Doors for Refugees-sponsored events.
Historically our main events included an annual Thanksgiving dinner for refugee families, a summer community picnic, and a special naturalization ceremony. In addition, the team has helped coordinate smaller events and activities, such as outings to the zoo and trampoline park, and roller skating for refugee families. Other past events have included concerts for the public, and movie screenings to engage the community and educate the public.
Unfortunately, since the start of the pandemic, many of these events have been canceled, though we’ve been able to do some events virtually and some smaller events safely in person. During this time the team focused on fundraising, and we’ve still been able to organize some smaller events and activities. We are very hopeful to resume some smaller in-person events and possibly our large summer picnic in 2022.
Our goal is to create meaningful events for the refugee families, and also for the general public to engage with the refugee families, to learn from them, and to be invested in being a welcoming community.
If there is an upcoming event, Events Team members have the opportunity to help plan for it ahead of time and volunteer at it the day of. We strive to have a monthly or bi-monthly evening meeting on Zoom that usually lasts an hour.
Home Supply Team
Open Doors’ Home Supply Team provides newly arrived refugee families in the Madison area with monthly deliveries of basic household cleaning and bathroom supplies.
This volunteer team meets on the first Saturday of each month to purchase and distribute items like paper towels, laundry detergent, dish soap, and diapers, along with a gift card so people can get their own personal care items (all things our clients can’t buy using Food Share cards). This service is provided to each of our client families for the first six months they’re in Madison.
If you’d like to help out, you’ll need a reliable vehicle with some cargo space, the ability to carry a 20 pound box up a flight or two of apartment steps, and a standard background check. Our families come from all over the world, so language skills can be very useful but aren’t required.
We start around 9 am and are usually finished by noon.
The housing team works with individuals and families to locate affordable housing opportunities, answer common questions about tenant rights and responsibilities, assist with rental mediation, and connect refugee community members with housing services and with advice and assistance in legal matters.
This team is quite small at the moment and mostly operates on an as-needed basis. Current volunteer needs include answering inquiries and researching cases to find housing opportunities, community resources, or answers to tenant law questions. Going forward, the team would like to work more preemptively in this area by expanding connections with community resources and with area landlords, to create housing resources geared towards refugee community members, and to coordinate more with Jewish Social Services to assist in the resettlement of incoming refugees in affordable housing units.
Particularly needed are volunteers with backgrounds in law, social work, and housing, but anyone with a desire to help and passion for research and problem-solving is welcome to join the team. People who own rental housing are also invited to reach out to this team with offers of affordable housing. Please note that our biggest need is typically for 2+ bedroom affordable units.
When it’s time to set up a new apartment, the move-in leaders first check out the designated apartment for readiness and size the rooms for furniture.
On move-in day, the load manager gets the truck, which the loading crew then loads with the pre-selected furniture and housewares and takes to the apartment. There they unload the truck, arrange the furniture, and assemble the beds and tables as needed. At that point the set-up crew comes in and makes the beds, cleans, and organizes the kitchen and bathroom to make each apartment feel more like home prior to the arrival of new individuals and families.
All move-ins take place on weekdays.
Special Requests Team
The special requests team receives any request for support that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our other existing teams. These ad hoc requests can include grocery store shopping for a refugee family, providing a meal for a newcomer or something entirely different.
If you aren’t able to commit to a longer-term or recurring volunteer role, this may be the team for you!
The translation team provides written translation of documents and interpretation services through zoom (or in person if possible) for communications to refugees in our community.
Prior to a year or two ago, most of the newcomers came from the Middle East, while these days most of them come from Afghanistan, African countries, predominantly from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Accordingly, we have been translating to and from Arabic, Farsi/Dari/Pashto, French, and Swahili.
When the Translation Team leader receives a translation or interpretation request, they forward the request to all the translation team members and the first to respond handles that request. Most documents range between two to five paragraphs and are required to be translated and sent back within a few days. Interpretation sessions are not very common, but when needed can last up to 75 minutes. There are typically one or two translation/interpretation requests per month.
The transportation team provides rides to newcomers to help them get to appointments, classes, events, etc. This team is particularly critical during the first 90 days of the arrival of newcomers as they have a number of appointments that they must attend. Most of these volunteer opportunities take place weekday mornings and afternoons.
Volunteers complete a standard background check with an additional Driver’s check. We also ask members of this team to share their background check results with Jewish Social Services (JSS), the federal resettlement agency in Madison. Many of the appointments we help individuals get to are federally mandated and therefore are sent to us through JSS — by sharing your background check we can ensure that both our and their policies on client safety are adhered to.
The warehouse team arranges, cleans, preps, stores and manages all our donated furniture and housewares in our two donated storage spaces. They keep track of the inventory and notify the Outreach crew when items are running low. When a family is scheduled to arrive, they pre-select furniture and housewares for the family and set them aside for easy loading on move-in day.
All of these activities can be done at a time that’s convenient.