Thursday, May 17, 2018

Poverty in Bergen County-- Young Leaders Perspective

College LEADS is a program for students to learn about local government and public policy. Students analyze community issues and develop new approaches to problem solving. The students take a deep look into a compelling issue. They look at the many facets of the issues figuring out where their generation can take a stand and make an impact.

During the 2017-2018 school year approximately 25 Bergen Community College (BCC) students under the leadership of Debbie Emery, BVC Advisor and Angie Goldszmidt, BCC Advisor participated in the program. The primary focus and challenge for this cohort of students was to look at the issue of poverty in Bergen County and its impact on different communities. Students were not only charged with proposing solutions to help alleviate the problem but also in educating the public about existing resources. In order to better make an assessment and understand the issues such as homelessness, transition from incarceration, low income health care and food insecurity, interactive site visits were planned to organizations such as:
  •  Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services for Families/Individuals 
  •  CFA Food Pantry at BCC 
  •  Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative 
  •  MEVO Fresh Roots Farm 
  •  Bergen County Jail 
  •  Bergen County Law and Safety Complex 
  •  Transition Professionals 
  •  Ramapough Lenape Nation 
  •  Municipal Government – Village of Ridgewood 
  •  Family Promise of Bergen County 
These visits resulted in the students taking actions such as doing a food pantry drive for the Center for Food Action (CFA) located at Bergen Community College with advertisements for this CFA as 60% of the students were unaware of this on-campus resource. Others were motivated to help by volunteering at some of the organizations visited during the semester. A formal presentation of their findings was presented at their culminating activity on April 26, 2018. To read more about their full report, click here.

Thank you to all of our future leaders who participated in this year’s College Leads program. We wish you much success in your future academic and professional endeavors.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Meet the Matchmakers - Suzanne

Redefining Retirement, a new program at the Bergen Volunteer Center, works with
interested nonprofits to identify their volunteer needs and connect them with retired volunteers who have the specific skills needed. We are excited to introduce to you some of the programs volunteers! Redefining Retirement Matchmakers are trained volunteers who will make initial connections between the nonprofits and interested retirees.

Meet Suzanne!

As a recently retired professional I was actively looking for a purposeful rewarding volunteer role to leverage both my skills and my newly found “gift” of free time! I grew up in Bergen and County and I worked for 33 years, for a large global consumer product company. My career spanned across finance, training and development, and information technology. As a working mom I certainly had the stress of managing multiple priorities but always found time along the way to volunteer. I truly feel that giving back, through service to others, always helped me to find balance, relieve stress, and fuel my soul. The Redefining Retirement Matchmaker role has been perfect for me as it fills one of my passions, to interact with people, to coach and mentor in a new way, and learn more about the many nonprofit organizations of Bergen County. “One of the greatest gifts you can give is your time.” I hope you will share your skills and volunteer for one of our wonderful organizations. I promise you will get back more than you give!

To learn more about Redefining Retirement please visit, https://www.bergenvolunteers.org/redefining-retirement.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Meet the Matchmakers Manager - Louisa!

Redefining Retirement, a new program at the Bergen Volunteer Center, works with interested nonprofits to identify their volunteer needs and connect them with retired volunteers who have the specific skills needed. We are excited to introduce to you some of the programs volunteers! Redefining Retirement Matchmakers are trained volunteers who will make initial connections between the nonprofits and interested retirees.

Meet Louisa!

Louisa Hellegers is currently in her third retirement. Louisa has been a volunteer with the Bergen Volunteer Center for about two years, first chairing the research to start the program, then designing, and now implementing the newest Volunteer Center program, Redefining Retirement. She says that all of her previous professional and volunteer experience has come together as she manages this important new initiative for the Volunteer Center: connecting retired volunteers with Bergen County nonprofits who need the volunteers’ expertise to best serve their communities and help achieve their goals.

To learn more about Redefining Retirement please visit, https://www.bergenvolunteers.org/redefining-retirement.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Making-It-Home Honors Earth Day


Today and All Year-Long

Innovative Program Recycles Thousands of Pounds of Donated Furniture
and Brings It to Formerly Homeless Families Moving to New Apartments




Today Making-It-Home, a program of the Bergen Volunteer Center, celebrates Earth Day by marking 30,500 pounds of furniture recycled and kept out of our landfills since January 2017. Making-It-Home collects gently-used furniture from local residents and businesses, and then brings it to formerly homeless veterans, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and other low-income families who are leaving emergency shelter and moving to new but unfurnished apartments. The organization recruits a team of volunteers to help with the task.

“Today we celebrate the importance of our environment and those who are working hard to protect it,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg. “We greatly admire Making-It-Home for the creative way that it is solving two key problems in our community– keeping unwanted furniture from clogging our landfills and furnishing the apartments of low-income people who would otherwise be living on the floor.” 

In 2017 alone, volunteers helped gather more than 400 individual pieces of furniture – the equivalent of nearly 22,000 pounds of sofas, chairs, tables, and bedroom dressers. A total of 245 adults and children were impacted by Making-It-Home – 94 clients, 76 furniture donors, and 75 volunteers who donated 442 hours of their time. Thus far in 2018, the program has achieved positive outcomes with 28 clients served, 34 residents donating 8,600 pounds of furniture, and 34 volunteers contributing 148 hours of service.

Whether moving, redecorating or disposing of the furniture of a loved one, local residents have a meaningful option for recycling the pieces they no longer need. Making-It-Home provides complimentary pick up service in time to meet their busy schedules. “It meant so much to give these pieces of furniture to people who can really use it, rather than seeing it go in the trash,” said donor Stacy Geant Hughes. “I’m so happy to help someone get back on his feet and have a home of his own. We are thrilled that our furniture is a place for him to relax!”

“Our collective effort is really making a difference,” said Cynthia Massarsky, Director of Making-It-Home. “We are deeply grateful for all our partners’ commitment to our clients and the recycling component of this program.  This piece is so vital to our environment and the health of our community,” she said.

Local social service agencies connect with Making-It-Home when they have clients who are leaving temporary shelter and moving to apartments– to ensure that families who are making a fresh start have basic furniture on which to sleep, sit and eat. They can then use their limited funds for necessities such as food, rent, and medical care. A comfortable home environment encourages independence and self-sufficiency, and builds a foundation that allows people to thrive. It inspires low-income families to maintain their housing, reducing the chance they’ll become homeless again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Meet the Matchmakers - Karen!

Redefining Retirement, a new program at the Bergen Volunteer Center, works with interested nonprofits to identify their volunteer needs and connect them with retired volunteers who have the specific skills needed. We are excited to introduce to you some of the programs volunteers! Redefining Retirement Matchmakers are trained volunteers who will make initial connections between the nonprofits and interested retirees.

Meet Karen!

It has been very satisfying to be a Matchmaker in the Redefining Retirement program of the Bergen Volunteer Center. In my past role as a nursing home administrator in a not for profit facility, I learned to value the role and contributions of volunteers to enhance services for our residents. As a Matchmaker, I am also able to use my skills as a licensed clinical social worker to work with prospective volunteers and get a good understanding of what volunteer projects will meet their interests and use their skills. I am always excited and pleased whenever we have made a successful match.

To learn more about Redefining Retirement please visit our website. Or visit the Matchmakers at here office hours, schedule below.



Monday, April 16, 2018

Getting the most out of volunteering


You’re donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. To make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit:
Ask questions. You want to make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. Sample questions to your volunteer coordinator might address your time commitment, if there’s any training involved, who you will be working with, and what to do if you have questions during your experience.
Make sure you know what’s expected. You should be comfortable with the organization and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.
Don’t be afraid to make a change. Don’t force yourself into a bad fit or feel compelled to stick with a volunteer role you dislike. Talk to the organization about changing your focus or look for a different organization that’s a better fit.
Enjoy yourself. The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization. If you’re not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why. Is it the tasks you’re performing? The people you’re working with? Or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and familiar? Pinpointing what’s bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.
Now that you are armed with ALL this information, begin to enjoy the advantages of volunteering by contacting to the BERGEN VOLUNTEER CENTER database. We have an active list of over 200 volunteer opportunities ready for you. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Redefining Retirement Matchmakers and Skills Based Volunteering


Skills Based Volunteering (SBV) is a movement that brings passion, purpose, and possibility to corporations, professionals and non-profits. It enables different sectors to work collaboratively and share expertise while building capacity and making the world a better place one social good mission at a time. The following benefits of Skills Based Volunteering were cited recently in an article
  • Skills-based volunteer projects often establish a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between nonprofits and volunteers. 
  •  Skills-based volunteers can fill nearly any gap in expertise your organization is experiencing. 
  • The relationships you build with skills-based volunteers doesn’t just allow for rapid-fire project completions, it gives you and your team the opportunity to develop professionally in ways you never imagined. 
Here at The Bergen Volunteer Center, the Redefining Retirement Matchmakers work to connect retirees with the perfect position that compliments their skill sets so that both the agency and volunteer gain the most from the experience/relationship. Redefining Retirement is designed to help Bergen County understand and benefit from the asset and valuable resource older adults are and will continue to be. By engaging this population locally in meaningful volunteer work, the Volunteer Center hopes to encourage and support retirees who want to age in place — in towns where they have lived for many years. 

Working with the five Bergen County Age-Friendly Coalitions— Englewood, Garfield, Ridgewood, Teaneck, and Westwood — Redefining Retirement works with interested nonprofits to identify their volunteer needs and connect them with retired volunteers who have the specific skills needed.

Redefining Retirement Matchmakers are trained volunteers who will make initial connections between the nonprofits and interested retirees. Matchmakers hold “office hours” once a month, in locations within the five Age-Friendly communities, and Hackensack, where they meet with prospective volunteers and conduct interviews.

INTERESTED IN JOINING THE MOVEMENT AS A MATCHMAKER OR VOLUNTEER?
Visit the website and also follow the blog to learn more about our Redefining Retirement Matchmakers.