Home Cook Heroes Program Guidelines

Thank you for considering providing a meal for our families! Coming home from the hospital to a home-cooked meal, made by people who care, is a real gift to our families. Please read over these simple guidelines to get started.


View as a PDF here.

How to Sign Up

  • Fill out the sign-up form on our website.
  • Once the form is received, a Howie’s House staff member will email you a confirmation of your date along with some simple guidelines about your meal. At this point, you can ask any questions that you may have regarding your meal or the Home Cook Heroes program.

Group Requirements


  • We ask that groups have a maximum of 10 volunteers (this includes any children under the age of 18). This helps to ensure that each volunteer will have a worthwhile experience while having the kitchen remain a safe and productive area.
  • If you have a group larger than 10 we suggest breaking up into sections (ex. preparation and cleanup) or choosing two separate dates to come in.


  • For every three children under the age of 18 there must be at least one responsible adult chaperone.
  • Children must be supervised at all times for their safety and the safety of our guests.

Serving Requirements and Times


  • The number of families varies depending on the House occupancy and the particular day your group is cooking. A Howie’s House staff member will reach out to you for an approximate headcount within the week you are scheduled to come in.
  • If you have questions or need the information sooner, feel free to call us but please note that we cannot give an accurate headcount too far in advance.


  • The Howie’s House does not ask Home Cook Heroes groups to cater to any family or guest’s specific needs based on allergies or dietary restrictions. The guests know to check with the Front Desk to see which ingredients are included in the meal. They can always feel free to use any food in our pantry if they cannot eat what is served on a particular night.
  • For baking:
    • Cookies, brownies and muffins are always popular and wrap easily for freshness.
    • Please avoid or limit items that need refrigeration.
    • We ask that groups prepare no more than 3 items baked like instructed.
  • All ingredients for each dish must be written out on a Meal Ingredient Form that you will find at the end of this packet or a form will be given to you when you come in to cook. It is up to the group whether this form will be filled out in advance or at the time of volunteering.
  • When dropping off a meal/baked goods to the Howie’s House, please always include a completed Meals Ingredient Form.
  • No alcohol may be used in any food preparation or served during mealtime.


  • Brunch is served at 10 am (weekends only) – groups may begin arriving at 8 am
  • Dinner is served at 6 pm (every day) – groups may begin arriving at 4 pm
  • Baking groups may come in during off-peak hours (weekends 12:30-3pm; weekdays anytime before 3 pm)
  • For brunch and dinner, groups may arrive up to 2 hours before to begin preparing. Groups may also drop off commercially prepared food to serve, but please keep in mind time needed to bake/thaw food so that the meal can be served by the times listed above.

Upon Arrival/Parking

  • The Howie’s House is located on 4th Street and Callowhill Street in Philadelphia.
  • You may park in our free, gated parking lot (entrance located on Callowhill Street) and enter in the front entrance where you will be greeted by the Howie’s House staff or volunteers that will give you directions to the kitchen.
  • Staff will provide paperwork for group members to sign in on and the leader will be responsible for any additional materials given.

Our Kitchen

  • We have four fully-equipped kitchen stations complete with ovens, stoves, microwaves, and sinks that you can feel free to use.
  • We also have all of the plates, platters, utensils, etc. that you will need for your meal but donations of paper plates, napkins and paper cups are always needed and appreciated!
  • We ask that if you have any equipment ‘special requests’ such as a specific type of pan, food processor, etc. that you bring the item with you just to be sure that you can prepare your meal properly.
  • Coffee, tea, seasonings, and other staple food items are normally available in the House. Groups may call a few days before your scheduled meal to check on available items.
  • We have an outdoor grill that you can feel free to use in warm weather. The grill is filled with propane which is provided by the Howie’s House.

Meal Restrictions

The following foods are prohibited:

  • Non-pasteurized juices and milk products (ex. Freshly squeezed juice, raw milk)
  • Raw seed sprouts, such as alfalfa sprouts
  • Undercooked meat, fish or eggs
  • Alcoholic beverages of any kind


Howie’s House staff and volunteers will explain how the meal is set up when you arrive, but please read through the following guidelines:

  • All meals are served buffet style on the island in the front of the kitchen
  • Plates are stacked and silverware is put out on the end of the serving island.
  • We have all of the serving platters and equipment you will need.
  • All hot food must be placed in heat conducting containers/dishes (i.e. glass, disposable aluminum, and metal), and be placed on the provided hot plates to be kept warm throughout dinner.

Clean Up

  • The volunteer group is responsible for cleaning the kitchen stations and equipment you used to prepare your meal.
  • Whenever possible, all dishes must be cleaned in the dishwasher. Larger pots, pans, and serving dishes can be washed by hand in the hottest water possible.
  • Guests clear and clean their own dishes so the volunteer group does not need to worry about waiting for the families to finish eating.
  • Howie’s House staff will put away and label leftovers so that they are properly managed.

Group Cancellation

  • In the event that your group will be unable to meet your commitment to providing your meal, we would appreciate as much notice as possible so we can make alternate arrangements to feed our guests.

Photo Release

  • By participating in the Home Cook Heroes program, you grant permission to Gift of Life Howie’s House, Gift of Life Donor Program and Transplant Foundation, and their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, principals, directors, agents, officers, employees or contractors to use and disseminate (with or without my name) any photographs, interviews, motion pictures, recordings or images of me regardless of medium, or any other record of this event in promotional materials, presentations (regardless of medium and including online or social networking websites), whether now known or hereinafter existingor for any lawful purpose and waive all rights to compensation for use of these images or interviews.
  • Should you have any photo release concerns, please contact the Howie’s House Manager.
  • All group leaders must sign a photo/media release waiver on behalf of their entire group upon arrival.


Volunteer Illness:

    • Many guests at the Howie’s House have weakened immune systems as a result of their treatment and medication. Exposure to communicable disease represents a more serious danger to those individuals. If any member of your group has displayed signs of illness within the last 14 days they may not participate in cooking, handling any of the ingredients, or volunteering at the Howie’s House. Examples include signs of infection, flu-like symptoms, rashes, cough, or GI issues.
    • If any member of your group regularly interacts with someone (family members, friends, coworkers, etc.) who has traveled internationally within the last 14 days they may not participate in volunteering at the Howie’s House.
    • We appreciate your cooperation and understanding, and ask that you share this information with each member of your group.


    • While in the kitchen, please use good hand washing techniques before preparing and serving meals. All kitchen surfaces must be wiped down before and after food preparation. When cooking meats, please ensure the proper temperature is reached for food safety.
    • Keep raw meat away from other food to prevent cross-contamination.
      • Wash and sanitize surfaces that come in contact with raw meat.
      • Use a separate cutting board for raw meat.
      • Wash hands after handling raw meat.
    • Cook food to proper temperature:
      • 165 degrees F: poultry, hot dogs, stuffed foods and stuffing, casseroles, canned foods, all reheated food
      • 160 degrees F: beef, pork, veal, lamb (steaks, roasts, chops); ground beef (includes hamburgers and any dish that contains ground beef); egg dishes
      • 145 degrees F: fish
    • All meats must be fully cooked. Once cooked to proper temperature, hot‐held food must be kept at or above 140 degrees. Thermometers are supplied.
    • Take special care in transporting food to the House:
      • Potentially hazardous food must be transported in coolers on ice.
      • Hot food that is commercially prepared off‐site and transported to the House by the dinner group must arrive at the House within 75 minutes from time of purchase. If the temperature on arrival is less than 140 degrees, it must be reheated to 165 degrees.
    • Please visit the US Department of Agriculture’s volunteer guide for Food Safety, which includes additional information you need to know to ensure that your meal is as safe as can be for our families.

Special Notes

  • In the unfortunate event that your group will be unable make your scheduled baking date; we would appreciate as much notice as possible so that we can try to schedule another group.
  • Please keep in mind that guests you will be serving are presently experiencing a crisis in their lives. It is important to be empathetic and set a respectful mood while cooking in the Howie’s House.
  • No weapons of any kind may be brought onto Gift of Life Howie’s House’s property including any firearms, knives, ammunition, etc.
  • Volunteer groups are restricted to only the first floor common areas of the House and cannot enter a guest’s room at any time.
  • No community restitution or court-ordered volunteers can be accepted.
  • We ask that any volunteer who has never been to the Howie’s House takes a tour of our facility. By seeing all of the different amenities we have to offer (ex. Activity Center, Library, Guest Rooms) we can give volunteers a better understanding of our mission. Front Desk staff can give tours at any time, but it is usually most convenient to take the tour after your meal is served.
  • No alcohol is permitted inside the Howie’s House gates.
  • If any group members are smokers, there is a smoking section towards the back of the parking lot. Smoking outside this area is strictly prohibited.
  • We encourage you to have fun in our kitchen while preparing a meal for our families. Here are some suggestions:
    • Have a theme and dress up according to the theme to serve the meal.
    • Bring props (i.e. Hawaiian theme, bring flowers for tables and/or pass out leis).

    As a general guideline, please consider providing the following menu items:

    • Main dish (it is not necessary to provide both a meat and vegetarian entrée)
    • Starch, if not included in the main dish
    • Bread/rolls with butter
    • Fresh green or vegetables, salad and/or vegetable
    • Fresh fruit
    • Dessert Beverages


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