Meet Matthew Ayres: Simpson’s Volunteer Engagement and Partnerships Manager

Posted on September 20th, 2018

Matthew Ayres recently joined the Simpson team after 12 years at Hennepin County in the Office to End Homelessness and later in the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Office.

Matthew’s relationship with Simpson began in 2005 when he served as an intern while pursuing his Master of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. Matthew also volunteered his time at Simpson’s shelter during the past year.

Part of Matthew’s portfolio of work includes the coordination of meal groups for Simpson’s shelter. This responsibility entails recruiting and developing new meal groups, maintaining regular communication with the meal coordinators, working with the shelter staff to make sure the kitchen is running efficiently, and ensuring that volunteers have a meaningful experience.

Matthew is looking forward to being a part of Simpson’s volunteer engagement and fundraising programs too. He hopes to involve volunteers in Simpson’s programs in a more personal and intentional way. “I want everybody that volunteers in the shelter, whether its shelter support volunteers or meal group volunteers, to have an individual relationship with Simpson. I want people to have an opportunity to build on their volunteer experience,” says Matthew.

Getting to know volunteer groups and their passions was one of Matthew’s first tasks. “I stopped by and chatted with a volunteer group the other night and learned the coordinator had been volunteering with Simpson for 30 years. He has seen shelter guests come and go. He has seen our staff come and go. He’s seen the kitchen change. He’s seen the situation of people as the homelessness situation has changed over the years. He has seen policy change. It’s really interesting to meet folks and find out that they serve a meal every month … it’s just something they do every month. They make it part of their life,” he says.

There is an untapped opportunity to help our volunteers engage in political advocacy, according to Matthew. “People have meaningful experiences at the shelter. They see people living in a church basement and may want to do something more than serve a meal.  We need to give them tools to help them do that,” he adds.

The shelter provides an opportunity for volunteers to come in and meet our guests, see what Simpson is about, and find out how they can best serve within the organization. “We want to get people interested in the shelter meal program but also interested in the mentoring program, or in organizing a basic needs drive, or even help with advocacy efforts. All volunteers will have a meaningful experience serving at the shelter, but it may not match their passions like other opportunities would. We need to have a full menu of options and be able to work across programs to find the best fit for people,” says Matthew.

The shelter meal group program is an essential part of the shelter’s operations.  Matthew welcomes new groups to the shelter and is committed to making sure volunteers have a positive experience. “I am always happy to walk volunteers through the ins and outs of the shelter, and even serve a meal with them,” says Matthew.

If you would like to learn more about upcoming volunteer opportunities or schedule a tour, contact Matthew at

Did you know?   

  • Shelter volunteers serve dinners 365 days per year. Breakfasts are usually served on the weekends.
  • Simpson has more than 100 volunteer meal groups that serve at the shelter throughout the year.