Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hearts of Bergen- Lisa

Meet Lisa,
Lisa is an outstanding volunteer. She volunteers at the Ronald McDonald house, the Church in Ridgewood, Kiawah Cares and Bergen Volunteer Center. She likes to volunteer as it helps her connect to the community. She uses her time to give back to the community and make an impact. Lisa has been volunteering for 30+ years because she has the time to do it. Since she has moved many times, it was a way to get to know her community better. Lisa likes to do something meaningful with her time to help benefit others. The best part about volunteering for Lisa are the relationships and friendships she has made. She has received a certificate for her work and donating her time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Business Volunteer Council Joins Forces with Veteran Experts

By Erica West

On June 9, 2016, Bergen County members of the Business Volunteer Council “Joined Forces” with experts in Veteran Affairs, at Sharp Electronics, Mahwah, to explore the benefits of hiring service men and women and providing them a supportive work environment to thrive.

Eli Amdur, career coach and columnist for North Jersey Media, opened the discussion by reminding us, “We need to do more than say thank you to our veterans; we need to support them.”

Yes we do, but make no mistake, hiring a veteran is far from an act of charity.

Veterans have more world experience, leadership skills, and applied more critical problem solving in high stress situations, at 22, then most of us will our whole lives. So, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m confused; aren’t these some of the top qualifications employers say they’re seeking from candidates?

Yet, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports the jobless rate for all veterans is 4.6 percent. More alarmingly, Gulf War-era II veterans (September 2001 to present) is 5.8 percent. Many of Gulf War-era II veterans, more than any previous recorded combat, are women. Making the number of jobless service woman, staggeringly higher at 6.4 percent.

So where is the discrepancy?

Part of the problem is veteran numbers are growing and jobs aren’t growing fast enough. And even amid the listless hiring rates of a slack economy, men and women with combat experience are being purposely ignored by some employers who fear they may have the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. This type of stigma is creating roadblocks to veteran’s transition to corporate America.

Veterans who apply for corporate jobs should carry not a stigma, but a glowing recommendation. They are wired to work long hours with minimal sleep, start early, be trained quickly, and complete assigned tasks — all with a certain intensity and focus that only can be sharpened by combat experience. These are just a few of many qualities veterans possess that make them ideal employees. Eli Amdur highlights, 16 additional strengths in his 2010 article, From uniform to workplace: your next big victory. Why America’s veterans are great hires. 

Some companies, including New York-based financial giant Citi Bank, have recognized that service members carry unique talents from the battle field into the boardroom. They have paved the way among fellow corporate giants in hiring1,000s of veterans. So what can we do here in Bergen County on a local level?

As, Bergen County businesses, we are poised to do more than simply salute our veterans; it is our responsibility to be part of the solution. The great news is you can start today.

Below are a list of some resources our panelist assembled to help you and your business get started.

  • Make an organization-wide commitment to hiring and retaining veterans. From top to bottom, and across all departments, a commitment to veterans must be ingrained into the culture of the organization, and often, hiring managers and Human Resource staff need to be trained on the intricacies of hiring veterans.

o    You can partner with the Bergen County Veteran Services for veteran referrals by contacting, Ariel Luna, Director of Veterans Services
  • Create support services for veterans and their families, including increased workplace flexibility programs, and an employee resource group for veterans.
  • Access/training to self-care tools for stress relief and relaxation (i.e. PTSD FREE App / SIG Online Membership Tools) 
  • You can contact Brett Cotter, Stress is Gone or Gabriel Ramos, Director of Engagement at Headstrong Project to assist with establishing usable resources for veterans in the workplace.
  •  Build trust and a relationship with the veteran community. Build visibility among veterans and veteran organizations. State that you are — a veteran-friendly employer. Use your organization’s website to showcase your commitment to veterans. Create a section dedicated to veterans. 
o    Contact Lucy Del Gaudio, Community Captain Team Red, White, and Blue and other local veteran organization to begin building a relationship.

Additional Resources

·         Veterans Employment Toolkit. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

·         The Veteran’s Hiring Toolkit. U.S. Department of Labor

·         From uniform to workplace: your next big victory. Why America’s veterans are great hires -Eli Amdur

Thank you to our incredible experts:
  • EliAmdur, Amdur Coaching and Advisor Group, author of weekly Career Coach column for North Jersey Media
  • Ariel Luna, Director of Veterans Services
  • JuliaOrlando, Director of the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center
  • Gabriel Ramos, Director of Engagement at Headstrong Project
  • Lucy Del Gaudio, Community Captain Team Red, White, and Blue 
  • Brett Cotter, author and founder of Stress is Gone
  • RebeccaMiller Pringle, Keller Williams Town Life Realty 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Congratulations are in order for two of our own

by Cindy Andrake

Recently two inspiring women who are mentored as part of the Bergen Volunteer Center program, Mentoring Moms, accomplished something very special. One graduated college and another received a scholarship to support their future education!

Below are two inspiring stories of moms who want to share with you that you too can accomplish your dreams.

Monique has been matched with her mentor, Faith Samples-Smart, since 2001 and has worked hard as a single mom supporting her children while finishing her GED and, most recently, her Associates degree in Management from Berkeley College. Monique is the very definition of resilience; she keeps moving forward and upward no matter the challenge.  Pictured below is Monique with her son on the day of her graduation.  Well done and way to go Monique! We’re proud of you.

In May, Linda Kase’s mentee, Chiharu, received a scholarship from the ZONTA Club of Northern Valley. Chiharu, a single mom who is raising two teenage sons, is currently attending Bergen Community College with the hopes of finishing her degree at Ramapo. When Chiharu received notice she won the scholarship, she was allowed to bring one special guest with her to the acceptance dinner.  Who did she invite?  Her mentor, Linda Kase!  At the dinner, Chiharu gave an inspiring acceptance speech to the club members. Linda sent in the following picture from the dinner with the following note, “Thank you for introducing Chiharu and me, it is an ongoing success, enriching both our lives.”

To learn more about the Mentoring Moms program visit us online at or call Cindy Andrake at 201-489-9454.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hearts of Bergen- Scott

Meet Scott,
Scott volunteers at about 16 different organizations. Some of the places he volunteers at are Center for Hope and Safety, Bergen Family Center, Bergen Volunteer Center and Center for Food Action. To him volunteering is about making someone else’s life better. He says that “you get as much back or more of what they you give” when you help others. Also, it was a great way for him to meet new friends.
Since High school he has been volunteering since his whole family was involved with charities and non profits. Scott’s mom and grandmother were a great example for him because they seemed to feel volunteering was worthy and they enjoy it. His favorite part about helping out was how good it made him feel.
20 different groups have honored Scott. He was Hometown hero by Bergen Health and Life magazine. Russberrie gave him an overall volunteering work award and a national recognition he has received was point of light.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hearts of Bergen- Marlene

Meet Marlene,
AKA “Brief Babe”, starter of The Adult Care Brief Bank right here in Bergen County. Not only was Marlene a part of Bergen LEADS but four years ago she decided to start The Adult Care Brief Bank. This idea began when her aunt became incontinent and there were no agencies to help low income seniors to afford products needed.
Her everyday job consists of collecting items to give to Meals on Wheels of North Jersey who then distributes these items to low income seniors. She has collected over 90,000 products so far. When asked how volunteering and starting this great company made her feel she replied with “fabulous!” She also said that this project means everything to her and the best part was the thank you notes she received.

Friday, May 20, 2016

For My Mother

By Lynne Algrant

“To My Mother: Who once found me daydreaming in the middle of the kitchen floor and mopped around me.” 
                                                               -Toni Cade Bambara

Each year at the Mentoring Moms Celebration brunch in May, I think of this wonderful book dedication.  The notion of supporting someone’s dreams is so powerful and so delightful.

When you walk into a room of Mentors and Moms you are surrounded by people who support others’ dreams.  At this year’s celebration, we cheered for a Mom who recently graduated from Berkeley College and another Mom who won a scholarship at Ramapo College for her academic achievement.  These women are changing their lives through education and they are cheered on by Mentors, other Moms and Staff—a whole community that supports their dreams.

Additionally, all of the moms attending the event went home with a bagful of household toiletries donated by the Eastern Bergen County Board of Realtors.

The Mentoring Moms Program has launched a new initiative—the Chat N Chew.  Facilitated by motivational speaker and author, Faith Saunders and co-facilitated by Tracey, one of our Moms, Chat N Chew is an opportunity for Moms to serve as a peer support to each other.  They are paying forward the support and guidance they have been given by Mentors.

Helping women to provide a safe and stable home for their families is the mission of Mentoring Moms.  Here at the Bergen Volunteer Center, we are so proud and honored to help mentors turn their caring into meaningful action. And now, we are facilitating the chain reaction where those who have been mentored are supporting each other. 

Learn more about the Mentoring Moms program by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Bergen Volunteer Center and its community partners support our local veterans

We are so excited about the success of our first Veterans Resource Fair, held on April 20th.  The collection focused on spring/summer supplies and clothing needed to help out the needy and homeless veterans of Bergen County. 

This project was a partnership with the Bergen County Bureau of Veterans Affairs and Ashley Crawley, high school student and candidate for the Girl Scout’s most prestigious honor, the Gold Award.  Volunteers from BCB Bank, Suez, Five Star Premier Residence, Backpacks for Life, and Atlantic Stewardship Bank were also on hand to sort items, serve food, offer financial literacy lessons and provide “personal shopping” for each of the veterans in attendance.

“It was a heartwarming experience spending time with the Veterans who attended the Bergen Volunteer Center Veteran's Resource Fair,” said Paul Van Ostenbridge, President and CEO of Atlantic Stewardship Bank.  “I had the opportunity to assist one of my new friends in preparing for a job interview and it left us both feeling extremely positive.  Another Veteran shared with me that he was in Vietnam and when he returned to the states, there were no programs like this one.  He was sincerely grateful for the care and friendliness shown during his visit to the Resource Fair.”

Individuals, families, civic groups, faith-based organizations, our non-profit partners and our corporate neighbors supported the event through donations of much needed toiletries, new clothing, and gift cards. 

“This event was an uplifting opportunity for volunteers to give back to people who have served our country.  We look forward to hosting this event in the future.  Working together, we know we can accomplish so much for these deserving men and women who have supported our country,” remarks Debbie Emery, Director of Community Engagement for the Bergen Volunteer Center.

A very special thank you to our sponsors of the Veteran’s Fair:  BCB Bank, Five Star Premier Residence, and the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce.