Welcome to the Birch Community Services Helper/Volunteer Program! Contact our office at 503.251.5431 if your questions are not answered here.

Click here for a printable version of the volunteer guidelines!

BCS is a unique organization because all participants on the program also help. Helpers work more than 3000 hours a month to make BCS function. Many helpers just show up when they can. Others commit to a certain job and/or a scheduled time and BCS depends on that dedication. Most helpers work once a month, others come every week. There is a right fit for everyone!

Helper Requirements

Ready to help? At the warehouse, complete a Volunteer Liability Release Form for each worker and check in at the desk. NO SCHEDULING IS REQUIRED FOR VOLUNTEERING IN THE WAREHOUSE.

These are the requirements per FAMILY. An adult or approved teen (*minimum age, 14), in the family household may fulfill the requirements. Teens must be approved ahead of time by Suzanne Birch and are on probation until they have shown they can follow directions and complete tasks as required. Family requirements cannot be satisfied by helpers outside of the immediate household. Please do not bring new teens to volunteer on the last week of the month.

  • Work two hours each month after one month with BCSI.
  • Work four hours each month after three years with BCSI.
  • Work a full two hour shift. A minimum of two hours per person is required every time you work in the warehouse. Shopping time is not considered part of the two hour minimum.
  • Work the required hours during every month. (You may not “bank” hours for future months.)
  • Rotate warehouse shifts. Warehouse helpers working once or twice per month rotate shifts each month. I.e., in the course of a year work four morning, four afternoon, and four clean-up shifts.
  • Seasonal Garden Volunteer: Between March 1st and October 31st at The Baker and Sunderland Gardens, work one or more shift(s). Please see Garden Guidelines in the BCS office. Contact Ashley Schreiner by email Ashley@birchcommunityservices.org or by phone 503-997-9622.

Warehouse Helper/Volunteer Hours

Monday                  start time: 9:00 a.m.                          Clean up begins at 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday            start time: 9:00 a.m.                          Clean up begins at 6:00 p.m.

Friday                     start time: 9:00 a.m.                         Clean up begins at 4:00 p.m.

Notes about Helping:

  • Do not bring friends or kids (of any age) to help unless it is pre-arranged with BCSI.
  • Overseers are scheduled in the children’s waiting area beginning at 9:00 a.m. If you NEED to, you may bring your children to wait there while you help. Do not pay for babysitters.
  • Do not help yourself to items during your helping time.
  • Please turn cell phones off during volunteering unless you need to be accessible for emergencies.

We keep cold beverages in the cooler on the back wall by ‘George’, for helpers to enjoy during their shift. Thanks for helping make BCSI the co-operative operation that it is. You will be blessed by your service!

Helper Benefits

To say “thank you” for their service, helpers can shop at 12:45. You may help and stay to shop, or shop and then stay to help. If you work a different shift, i.e., pick-ups, you may come back to shop at 12:45. If you cannot shop that day you may shop early on your next shopping day.

Getting Started

  • Check in with the person supervising helpers when you arrive in the warehouse.
    • Lauren Prusso for women, and Andrew Rowlett or Mike Niemeyer for men
  • Ask the supervisor for an orientation tour during your first helper shift. Ask lots of questions!
  • Make the supervisor aware of any physical limitations you may have that might hinder your helping activity. Your safety is of utmost importance.

What to Wear

  • Comfortable and ready-to-get-dirty clothes are great! Shoes must cover the entire foot and have good rubber soles. (Danner boots are great.)
  • Modest clothing attire, suitable for warehouse work.
  • A BCSI apron and a name tag. This helps questions to be directed appropriately. At the end of the shift put your nametag away and the apron in the apron laundry.
  • A sweet expression shows that you are there because you want to be.
  • A fresh clean smell. Please, no perfume — it can be a bit overwhelming in close quarters … and so can body odor. Be nice to the rest of us!


ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS give equipment the right of way. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER expect that operators see or hear you. Don’t run quickly in front of machinery, or “just get by”… step back and make eye contact with the operators. The equipment doesn’t stop on a dime!

Equipment operators must first be trained and authorized by one of our employees. Absolutely no one may operate our power equipment without authorization.

Wear a back brace when you are lifting heavy items. We have them in the warehouse; just ask.


Sorting takes place in warehouse #2. A lead helper supervises the sorting process.

The goal of sorting
  • Remove unsafe items. (Would I take this home to MY family? Does this look clean and safe?)
  • Wipe or wash unclean items.
  • Group like items together.
  • Repackage items in appropriate quantities.
  • Store sorted boxes in designated areas.
  • Keep the area orderly always; keep the aisles clear, and stack box lids in one area.
  • Boxes containing food may be on a rolling cart or on a pallet, but never on the floor.
  • 8 aluminum carts need to be available at 10:30 for agencies.

Miscellaneous sorting notes

Stocking Shelves

During open hours the shopping area should stay full and orderly. Helpers remove boxes and place items on shelves so that the last family gets the same benefit as the first family.

The sections will change as our supply changes; in general follow the pattern already established.

  • Keep “like” items in the same areas; i.e. canned vegetables together, fruit, spaghetti sauce, etc.
  • Face the labels so that they can be read at a glance.
  • The “Specialty” section is for more expensive items, or items we receive in small quantities.
  • Nothing ever goes on the bottom shelves that sit on the floor, and generally, nothing on the floor.
  • DO NOT lift boxes that are too heavy for you! Ask for help.
  • Keep aisles clear while you work.

Food Breakdown

In the clean room food items that we receive in bulk are repackaged or placed on trays for distribution. Food safety is of vital importance; read further guidelines before working in this area.

  • Wash your hands first and ALWAYS wear clean rubber gloves. Reserve non-latex gloves for those with a latex allergy.
  • Wipe down the surface with disinfectant first and between every job.
  • Label individual items as they are packaged. Pastry flour and unbleached flour look alike, but don’t bake the same!
  • Clean up after each job, wiping floor if necessary.
  • Lift crates, or use a hand truck; do not drag crates across clean room floor.

Enforcing Posted Item Limits

BCSI limits the amount of items based on the numbers of families and the amount of product received. Helpers in the warehouse may have to enforce these item limits. People may take too much of an item because they haven’t seen the sign or don’t understand it. It is appropriate to give a gentle reminder. ‘”Did you realize the limit was two of these?” or, “You may not have noticed that you have chosen two boxes of cereal. Perhaps you could replace one of those with tomato sauce.” Although it may be uncomfortable, helpers aid everyone when they help one person to follow the guidelines. It is NEVER acceptable for someone to be rude to you. If a shopper is unpleasant with you, the supervisor must know right away.

Overseeing Children

Overseers do not serve as “baby sitters”. Their job is to make sure children do not leave the Children’s Waiting Area unless they are with their parents. Overseers are scheduled ahead via an online scheduling website. To get signed up, please email Jenn Kirkpatrick at kirkpatrickjenn@gmail.com. While email is the best way to contact Jenn concerning childcare, you may call her at 503.715.6544.

Stay with children until they are called to shop. (QUICK trips upstairs okay.)

  • Sign children in, give them a name tag, and mark the time you leave the Kids’ area.
  • You may take ONE young child into the warehouse with you, as long as that child is in a Snugli or backpack,
  • OR the child is under 5 years old and is strapped into the child seat of the shopping cart. NO standing in the shopping carts will be allowed!
  • The “riding” child is well-behaved and not a distraction to other shoppers.
  • The child is not eating while riding in the shopping cart.
  • Take children to the bathroom if necessary.
  • Keep children in the Kid’s area. Fill out time log for each family.
  • Release child to the person who left the child. DO NOT RELEASE CHILDREN TO UNFAMILIAR PEOPLE.
  • Call parents for bathroom needs, disruptive children, or if a child is left longer than one hour (unless the parent is helping). The front desk person can use the microphone for this.
  • Vacuum floor and wipe down tables with disinfectant at the end of the day.
  • Do not physically discipline children!
  • Do not take abuse from a child or parent.
  • Do not prepare beverages for the kids.
  • Do not accept from parents, or give to children, any kind of medication (NOTHING!!!).

Overseers’ Responsibility:


Drivers for BCSI represent over 650 families. Keep this in mind when interacting with suppliers.

  • Wear your nametag and be courteous to everyone.
  • Defer graciously if an argument arises about whether you should be picking up items. Let Barry and Suzanne know what happened.
  • NEVER joke with suppliers about “selling” ANYTHING. Those actions on the part of other organizations have lost them contributors.
  • Contact us if you can’t make your designated drive so we can get a substitute.
  • Weigh the product received, and write your pick up into the Intake book after it is weighed.
  • Let us know if the size of the pickup doesn’t match your vehicle.
  • Record your helping time from the time you leave home until you reach the warehouse. We generally don’t reimburse for gas unless there are extenuating circumstances.
  • Your driver’s license number must be registered with our insurance company in order to drive our vehicles. You must be approved by our insurance company, and you must be insured.

Using Your Own Vehicle

  • Let us know if the size of the pickup doesn’t match your vehicle.
  • Record your helping time from the time you leave home until you reach the warehouse. We generally don’t reimburse for gas unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Using Our Vehicles

  • Your driver’s license number must be registered with our insurance company in order to drive our vehicles. You must be approved by our insurance company, and you must be insured.

Recording Helper/Volunteer Time

Helper hours are recorded in the Helper log on the computer in the waiting area. Record your time at the end of your shift. Each helper in the family will log out under their own name. Shopping time is not helper time. Upon request, a total of your helper hours will be given for filing taxes; mileage can be written off at 14 cents per mile.