Monday, March 23, 2020

Volunteering in the Time of Coronavirus

How can we come together when we’re supposed to be six feet apart?

People are finding creative ways to bridge the gap and strengthen our community.

Around Bergen County

Friends and neighbors throughout Bergen County are reaching out to those in need. Here are just a few stories of what individuals are doing to help:

Maintaining our mental wellness during a pandemic is just as important as protecting our physical health. Many people are using live streaming and video services to provide activities to keep our bodies and minds active.

Hackensack High School might have canceled classes, but student Ryan Ang isn’t treating his time off as a vacation. As one of the youngest basketball trainers, he is using his skills to provide free lessons via Instagram Live.

Judy Cohen, the owner of The Paint Box in Oradell, is offering online painting classes for students who are stuck at home. She is also collecting monetary donations to send care packages of art supplies to local senior citizens. She can be reached at if you would like to donate.

Restaurants are also stepping up to feed people who are facing food insecurity. If you order a “cheeseburger with love" or "hot dog with love” at Steve’s Burgers in Garfield your meal is free with the purchase of a drink.

You may be wondering what you can personally contribute. There are many opportunities to give back that keep everyone safe and healthy.

Social Distancing ≠ Social Isolation

Even before social distancing became an unfortunate necessity, 43% of adults aged 65 or above reported that they struggled with loneliness on a regular basis. Since this population is the most likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19, many are under strict orders to self-isolate from family and friends. Nursing homes and other long-term health facilities have temporarily barred visitors throughout the state to protect their residents.

This is a difficult time to be a volunteer, knowing that often the best way to help is to be hands-off. Many of us volunteer because we like to personally see the impact we are making and meet with the people we are helping face-to-face. However, there are ways that you can help right from your couch.

How You Can Help

1. Call a Senior

Now is a perfect time to catch up with a loved one over the phone. Take a few minutes each day to check in on a senior family member or neighbor. See if they need groceries or help to schedule telehealth appointments. There are also services like CHEER or Umbrella that will match you with a senior in your community who would be overjoyed to talk to you. Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh of Ridgewood is running a similar “Adopt a Senior” program.

2. Donate Funds to a Local Food Pantry

With schools no longer in session and many workers’ hours being cut, food pantries are seeing an uptick in demand. Rather than donating canned goods, monetary donations will stretch your dollar further. Food pantries have the opportunity to purchase goods wholesale, sometimes even at a discount which means they can get more bang for your buck. When in-house volunteers do the shopping and sorting, fewer people are handling donations which limit the possibility of the disease spreading.

3. Crafting for Good

Kids restless and bored at home? Flex your creative muscles and work together with them on a craft project that will brighten someone’s day. Check with your local senior living facility to see if they are accepting handmade cards and letters.

Know of any other programs helping those in need? Let us know in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Census 2020: User Guide

United States households are currently receiving their 2020 Census.

You may be wondering what the information is used for, who can see it, and what exactly is being asked. Here’s a quick guide on what the census is and how it affects you:  

Why Should I Participate?

Your participation in the 2020 Census benefits you, loved ones, and the community at large! 
$675 billion in federal funding is distributed every year across the United States. This money goes on to support programs such as schools, Medicare, housing, new roads, and much, much more! Non-profits also depend on these funds to help communities on a local level. Critical programs could face reductions in the people they serve if there is a discrepancy between the actual number of people in a community versus the people that responded. 
How you are represented in the government is also dependent on 2020 Census responses. The number of seats each state is allowed in the House of Representatives is determined by the population in a district. If fewer people are counted, that means that our state will have fewer representatives to introduce bills, propose amendments, and serve on committees on our behalf.
Did you know: The outcome of this census will directly affect state votes in the U.S. Electoral College for the 2024 presidential election. Make your vote count by being counted today!
Having accurate census information can even bring jobs to your neighborhood. Businesses use demographical data collected in the census to determine where to operate. 

 Is My Information Safe?

The information that you provide in the census is confidential. Census Bureau employees must adhere to strict guidelines that ensure the safety of all respondents. According to the Frequently Asked Questions section of, “The penalty for wrongful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years or both. No law enforcement agency (not the DHS, ICE, FBI, or CIA) can access or use your personal information at any time.”

What is NOT on the Census?

So, what IS on the Census?

In order to alleviate some common fears, it helps to know what questions are actually being asked. Here is a summary of the information you will need to provide:

-Number of people in the household
-Whether you live in a house, apartment or mobile home
-Telephone Number
-Basic demographic information for each person in the household 

For a detailed look at the questions you can see a sample questionnaire on the official census website here.

How Can I Start?

It is now easier than ever to get counted. You have the option to respond by mail, phone, online, or even at any of the many Census Sites throughout Bergen County. Access the online census here today!

What If I Need Help?

If you have any questions while filling out your questionnaire, our friendly staff is more than happy
to help you complete your form. E-mail with any questions!  

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Mike Cargill Celebrates 20 Years with CHORE

This year Mike Cargill celebrates his 20th anniversary as a CHORE volunteer. We sat down with the 78-year old Bergen County resident to find out about his experience with the program.

After he retired in 1997, Mike was looking for a way to volunteer doing something that he loves. A jack-of-all-trades handyman, CHORE stood out to him because he enjoyed fixing things around his own house. He applied to the program, aced his interview, and the rest is history.

Throughout his many years of service he has been able to help over 21,000 seniors and disabled residents remain in their homes. Yet Mike insists that he gets even more satisfaction out of CHORE than the clients do. He says, “The best part for me is being able to improve the quality of life for someone instantly. It is very satisfying to be able to make a difference.”

He recalls a job that he did for two sisters, who were 98 and 96 years old. But don’t let those ages fool you. He’ll never forget how impressed he was by how active and funny the pair was, even noting that the two were spry enough to beat him down the stairs.

Another client that left a mark on him was a woman with braces on her legs. After completing repairs inside the residence, he and his fellow volunteers noticed that her front step was 8-inches high, making it difficult for her to enter her home. They built another 4-inch step to make the stairs more accessible. They were happy to go above and beyond what was asked of them to keep her safe.

In addition to his passion for volunteering, Mike is also an avid fisherman. Not content to just reel in the catch of the day, he finds the time to spread his love of fishing with the community. His fishing club, the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association, hosts free events to teach kids how to fish. Their annual “Hooked on the Hudson” at Ross’s Dock features a fishing competition, children’s activities, and displays from local environmental groups.  

Volunteers are the heart and soul of CHORE. Without them, many individuals would not have access to low-cost repairs that keep them in the homes that they love. We would like to sincerely thank Mike for his incredible 20 years of service!

When asked what he learned from being a CHORE volunteer, Mike had this to say: If you are prepared for your retirement, it is the best time of your life.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Bergen Volunteers CHORE program featured on CNN Vital Signs

At the beginning of October, we invited members of the CNN International show Vital Signs to shadow our CHORE volunteers for a typical day out in the community. Vital Signs is a monthly half-hour health and wellness feature program hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

The CNN show Vital Signs reached out to us for an upcoming episode looking at what it means to age in 2019, specifically the concept of “aging in place.” They were intrigued by the CHORE program when they heard most of our volunteers are also seniors (53 of our 55 volunteers). 

The CHORE program was started back in 1977, as a response to the Older American’s Act of 1965. For over 40 years we have been performing minor household repairs for residents of Bergen County who are elderly and disabled. Each week we send out three vans with crews of volunteer handy people to about 50 homes in the community where they install grab bars and railings, change light bulbs, and perform simple plumbing and electrical repairs.

Monday through Friday the CHORE crews meet in our parking lot at 8:30 in the morning. Each crew grabs their storage clipboards from the office that has their jobs for the day, as well as any specific supplies they might need, and then they head out in their vans to visit about three or four homes. 

The CNN crew jumped into the CHORE van and followed our volunteers, Ed Morandi, Pete Tilgner, and John Pastore through their day. Our volunteers have backgrounds as complex as the projects they take on each week. For example, Ed has been volunteering for CHORE for the last 14 years, ever since he retired from owning a commercial printer. The crews learn from one another and develop a team. The camaraderie of the crews is a compelling aspect of the CHORE volunteer experience. 

On that particular day, the crew first set off to Ruby’s home where they removed air conditioners and added weather stripping to her back door. They then went to Camilla’s house where they replaced a showerhead and fixed a toilet. Finally, they added grab bars at Eric’s home. 

Throughout the day we heard from each of the clients how much they appreciated how CHORE enabled them to stay in their homes and take on projects that were too heavy or overwhelming to take on themselves. 

Demand for the CHORE service is so high that visits are often scheduled at least a month out. Clients pay only for the materials that are used. Grants from the Division of Senior Services of Bergen County, and by individual donors enables us to maintain our vans, coordinate all of the scheduling, and order bulk supplies so that we’re able to offer the labor free of charge to our clients. 

We’re so grateful that our hardworking volunteers had the chance to show others all they do to help members of the community stay safe in their homes, that our CHORE clients had an opportunity to express their gratitude for this service, and that so many others can see the good work that happens through the CHORE program.

Be sure to check out the whole Vital Signs episode when it airs on CNN International this coming week:

  • Saturday, November 9: 7:30am, 8:30pm
  • Sunday, November 10: 1:30pm, 2:30pm
  • Wednesday, November 13: 12:30pm
  • Saturday, November 16: 2:30pm
  • Sunday, November 17: 7:30pm

Here is where you can find CNN International: 
  • DirecTV - Channel 358
  • CNNgo App - Apple TV, iOS, Roku
  • Cable: Verizon FiOS - Channel 105
  • Satellite TV:  Orby TV - Channel 307
  • IPTV: AT&T U-verse/CenturyLink - Channel 205

For a full listing of when the show will air or to see the episode online after November 11th check out the Vital Signs webpage.

To learn more about how you can help support the CHORE program to reach even more members of the community reach out to us.

To donate to the CHORE program click here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


On Tuesday, October 29th, Bergen Volunteers held its annual Hearts of Gold Dinner and Auction. Throughout the event, we highlighted the success of one of some of our programs such as All Wrapped Up, Redefining Retirement and CHORE. We also honored individuals and companies that have contributed to the success of these programs by voluntarily giving of their time and resources. Among our 2020 honorees was Cole Schotz and the acceptance speech (below) given by Lori Wolf spoke to the heart of what we do; turning caring into meaningful action to improve lives and strengthen the community.

“Cole Schotz takes great pride in helping with the All Wrapped Up Program.  This amazing program helps make holiday wishes come true for disadvantaged New Jersey individuals and families.  Members of the firm elect to shop for babies, teens, disabled individuals, veterans and families.  We receive wish lists from Bergen Volunteers so that we know we are getting what they want and need.  It is heartbreaking to see what many of these individuals request.  The typical gift request is not an Iphone or an Xbox. Instead, what we see the most are requests for winter coats, hats, gloves, boots and even underwear and PJs. Pampers for babies and sheets and pots and pans are also frequent requests.  My colleagues and I shop from the list of requested items and then typically add something extra – perfume or cologne, a book, makeup, or a toy in the holiday spirit.  Gift cards for Shop-Rite or Walmart are also commonly included.  We shop in teams and department groups, individually and even with family and friends outside the firm- I can tell you that my kids look forward to participating annually. Since the gifts are collected in my office and one or more offices near me, I can tell you it creates a Santa Claus feeling to see the growing piles of presents and ultimately to load the trucks up for delivery to the agencies. The gifts we provide may be the only gifts these individuals receive.  We are proud to support this worthy cause and bring a smile to someone special at the holiday season.  Speaking both for myself and for many of my colleagues who have expressed similar sentiments to me, participating in this program and shopping for disadvantaged NJ individuals and families may make us as happy as we hope that the recipients are in opening their gifts. To me, this is what the holiday season is all about.” 

To quote the mantra used by our CEO, Lynne Algrant at the event, “When we say we love what we do, we love what we do!”  To give to any of our programs, click here .

Monday, September 9, 2019

Taking a Stand to Prevent Falls in 2019 - Successful Aging

National Fall Prevention Awareness Week is September 23- 29 when the focus is on raising awareness about how to prevent fall related injuries among older adults.  Research indicates that falls are the leading cause of injury related emergency department visits for older adults (65+), the major cause of hip fractures, and responsible for more than half of fatal head injuries.  More than 25% of older adults fall each year.  As a result about 30% of older people who fall lose their self-confidence and start to go out less often. Inactivity can then lead to social isolation, loss of muscle strength and balance thus increasing the risk of falling. The great news, however, is that falls are not an inevitable part of aging and that some can be prevented.
 The National Council on Aging cites the following common factors that can lead to a fall:
  • Balance and gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
  • Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
  • Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
  • Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
  • Chronic conditions: More than 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.
What are some simple prevention measures to take to reduce the risk of falling?

  1. Health conditions - review your health conditions and medication with your doctor.
  2. Physical activity - keep moving by doing gentle activities such as walking, water exercises, tai chi.
  3. Footwear - consider changing your footwear.
  4. Home hazards - secure and/or remove common home hazards such as rugs, phone cords, furniture.
  5. Lighting - light up the living space. Keep areas brightly lit to avoid tripping over hard to see objects.
  6. Assistive devices - install/use assistive devices such as grab bars and stair rails.  (Mayo Clinic)
The CHORE and CHEER programs of  Bergen Volunteers which focus on improving the lives of seniors and successful aging also play a critical role in not only the prevention of falls by installing grab bars and railings ( CHORE) but also in providing assistance through the CHEER program. All CHORE labor is performed for free by a dedicated team of BVC volunteers; clients cover the cost of material. For additional information, visit our website and/or read articles cited.
‘Take a Stand to Prevent Falls’ as you explore and enjoy the bounties, splendor and celebrations of Fall.

For more information click here  and click here and read more!

Thursday, July 25, 2019



Once again the Bergen Volunteer Center has been cited for the awesome work that it does in the county as it continues to improve lives and strengthen the community through its many programs. The article, “Older Workers Reject Retirement for Employment, Volunteering” published on June 27, 2019 in USA Today highlighted one of our programs, Redefining Retirement. Redefining Retirement was established in June 2017 and has since matched over 100 retirees with non- profit organizations in need of their unique skills.

The Bergen Volunteer Center (BVC) was founded in 1966 and one might describe us as the original, ‘” connecting people who want to volunteer to organizations that need volunteers. BVC, a small but highly effective and mighty organization has grown exponentially. BVC created and manages a myriad of programs to meet the needs of our community. Bergen County is both a magical and complex place—it is a wonderful place to grow up and/or raise a family, but it is also a hard place to be isolated, alone or struggling. It is often a “Tale of Two Counties ” and our programs and initiatives mirrors and addresses this dichotomy.

Our direct service programs under the Department of Improving Lives engage volunteers in direct service to mothers and adolescents through mentoring and our Cheer and CHORE programs help senior citizens age in place safely. The other body of work at the Bergen Volunteer Center is our Strengthening Community programs where we teach civic leadership and civic engagement. We help people learn about the county, gain new perspectives and inspire them to get involved. As such, we are developing a pipeline of locally knowledgeable civic leaders, who are passionate about Bergen County. These leaders-- adults, college students and high school students—are using what they have learned from our Bergen LEADs, College LEADS and Teen LEADS to run for office, serve on nonprofit boards and make policies. It is absolutely amazing to see a group of future leaders ( high school students) research current issues (i.e. mental health) that adversely impact their school community and/or County and present their findings and recommendations to their principal, superintendent and members of the board of education.

The Bergen Volunteer Center located at 64 Passaic Street in Hackensack is here to help, serve, elevate and educate and as we continue our mission of ‘improving lives’ and ‘ strengthening community’. With your support, we will continue to make a difference in your neighborhood, your town and our County as we turn caring into meaningful action. Check us out and spread the word!