Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Volunteer Spotlight - Erik Renn

Erik Renn is a 19 year old full-time college student from Fair Lawn who has been impacting the lives of many in and around his community and Bergen County as a volunteer for several years. Mahatma Gandhi once sated, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” and Erik has been modeling and living this since age sixteen.   

At age 16, he joined the Fair Lawn Fire Department as a junior member. Erik approaches all that he does with a spirit of excellence and, as such, attended and graduated the fire department academy (which is no easy feat). He is now is a full- fledged member of the department.  With all of his responsibilities, Erik still makes time to volunteer with two organizations; Fair Lawn Police Explorer and the Making-It-Home program of the Bergen Volunteer Center (BVC).

The Fair Lawn Police Explorer program introduces high school and college age individuals to police work and allows them to work alongside officers on certain assignments.

We at the Bergen Volunteer Center had the distinctive pleasure in November 2018 of adding Erik to our team of dedicated and skilled volunteers who daily ‘turn caring into meaningful action. No job is too small or too large for him as he assists the Making-It-Home volunteers in retrieving, storing and delivering gently-used furniture to formerly homeless persons, veterans, victims of domestic abuse, seniors and/ or individuals with disabilities in Bergen County.
In keeping with his work ethics, not only has he already amassed 100 hours with BVC but he has also garnered the respect and gratitude of both clients and staff. The annual Celebrate Volunteers event where agencies and other non- profit organizations acknowledge and celebrate exemplary volunteers was held on April 11th at Bergen Community College and Erik Renn was introduced to the world. Is there any wonder that Erik Renn was honored at this event? Congratulations and thank you for giving!  We wish you continued success in all of your academic and professional endeavors.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


This year was the third year that the Bergen Volunteer Center participated in Volunteers In Tax Assistance (VITA) program which is a free income tax preparation service designed to assist individuals and families. Tax clients, residing in Bergen County, that met the criteria for specific anti-poverty tax breaks, included the disabled, retired, elderly, and people who support dependents who are in college. This year, with the help of thirty (30) trained volunteers, more returns were filed than ever before. To accommodate the families, the volunteers working on weekends and some nights logged 1076 hours to complete all of the returns.  

A total of 177 federal tax returns were completed, averaging $1,480 refund per household. 184 state returns were filed for residents of the states of NY, NJ, AZ, CT, MA, and VA, averaging a $1,294 refund. In total, VITA clients received $314,000 in tax returns and were saved $45,000 in tax preparation services.  Incredibly amazing!

Both the clients and the volunteers felt incredibly rewarded and truly the success of the program underscores what research shows that volunteering is a two way street. “Volunteering can expand your horizons and utilize existing skill sets, while also giving you the opportunity to develop new ones. One of the most rewarding is the contact with the individuals you connect with while serving. As a volunteer, you can directly see the benefits that your work produces, whether you’re a mentor, helper or everyday participant. Seeing your actions make a positive difference for others is a strong motivator to continue serving”.

The youngest of the volunteers, Jordan and Jacob, are juniors at Mahwah High School and this was their first volunteer experience. They have both expressed how rewarding being a VITA volunteer is and they are excited to participate again next year. Research states that volunteering can improve/enhance current skills and one student indicated that his communication skills had improved during this process.

Bergen Volunteer Center’s, Debbie Emery who along with other BVC staff members managed this year’s VITA program  expressed the sentiments of all when she said, “it was a privilege to work with such dedicated and compassionate volunteers; I am so impressed with their care and concern for the clients’ well-being.”  The transformative power of giving- join the movement!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

April is volunteer month: Tips to get you started!

Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community. The benefits, however, can be even greater for you, the volunteer. Volunteering and helping others can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. Volunteering also provides a platform for you to share your skills and area of expertise to the benefit of organizations. Click here to see an example  Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

You are donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. The best way to volunteer is to find a match with your personality and interest. To make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit, research suggests that you  ask yourself if there is something specific that you want to do such as 
  • to improve the neighborhood where I live
  • to meet people who are different than me
  • to try something new
  • to do something with my spare time
  • to see a different way of life and new places
  • to have a go at the type of work I might want as a full-time job
  • to do more with my interests and hobbies

After you have identified your area of interest, be sure to engage the organization and or coordinator of your selected program by:-
Asking 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.
Making 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.
Now that you are armed with ALL this information, begin to enjoy the advantages of volunteering by visiting bergenvolunteers.org and viewing the hundreds of volunteer opportunities on the database. Sign up, enjoy your assignment and yourself and do not be afraid to make a change!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Bergen County Summer Campership Fund

In 1994, recognizing the need of lower-income families to ensure their children were in a safe, healthy, fun environment in the summer, a few volunteers led by Kay Gellert, with a major boost from the County of Bergen, and the Bergen Volunteer Center, established the Summer Campership Fund. Since 1996 the Summer Campership Fund has been supported by the generosity of individual and corporate donors thus making it possible to continue this invaluable program.

The Bergen County Summer Campership Fund
is a scholarship program that sends children from lower-income working families to local day camps. Contributions to the fund provide children with life-shaping experiences in a safe and healthy environment. Hundreds of working families in Bergen County are unable to afford summer day camp for their school-age children. As a result, many of these children spend their summer home alone while others are exploring and growing in a productive, healthy, memorable way. Not only does 
The Summer Campership Fund (SCF)  provide day camp scholarships to children (ages 3-12) but, at times, provide other support to said families in emergency and/or crisis situation(s

To apply for a scholarship, log on to www.bergencampershipfund.org.

The summer camp experience can give a child an advantage in school and in life. Research shows that camp does the following:

· Helps children build a unique interest

· Allows for the development of new skills

· Leads to a new type of friendship building

· Allows for confidence to be reinforced by success

· Helps with mental stimulation and physical activity

In 2018 the Summer Campership Fund helped 40 children have a terrific summer by providing $55,361 in scholarships. To help send a child to camp, send Tax Deductible Contributions payable to Bergen Volunteer Center – Campership Fund, 64 Passaic Street, Hackensack 07601. Give a child a safe and meaningful summer and be assured that every dollar raised goes directly to pay camp cost. Thank you for turning caring into meaningful action.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Status of Cannabis in Bergen  County: Canna-Business? Canna-Bank? Canna-Town?

Hackensack, New Jersey - In 2009, the Bergen Volunteer Center introduced the Fifth Friday series as one of its educational and civic -minded leadership programs that helps Bergen County residents stay informed on topics ripped from the headlines. Fifth Friday is a powerful networking and public policy series that attracts leaders from every sector of Bergen County and gives them the opportunity to hear from high profile speakers and share perspective on topics that affect their daily living and working.

In 2018, more than 500 people attended Fifth Friday forums and joined the conversation about: Women in Leadership, A Look at New Jersey’s Largest Public Hospital, and The Future of Retail Space in Bergen County. The Bergen Volunteer Center is excited about the 2019 series which kicks off on Friday, January 25th at the Stony Hill Inn. 

The topic of discussion will be: The Status of Cannabis in Bergen County and the discussion will be led by a panel of esteemed presenters that includes William Caruso of Archer and Greiner P.C., Sheriff Anthony Cureton, Dianna Houneou, Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Scott Rudder, President of the New Jersey Cannabis Association.

The Fifth Friday forums have been extremely successful, due in part to you- the attendee, a host of volunteers and our many generous sponsors. Thank you to Investor’s Bank, Archer and Greiner P.C, PNC Wealth Management and The Record for your sponsorship of the January 25, 2019 event .Sponsorship opportunities are still available! Fifth Friday Forum sponsors receive tremendous value for their investment, including: complimentary tickets; logo inclusion on websites, social media channels, email blasts, print and press releases; and recognition and signage on-site at the event.

Interested in joining us at Fifth Friday or becoming a sponsor? Call Elizabeth Reich at 201-489-9454 ext. 211 or e-mail ereich@bergenvolunteers.org for more information.

Bergen LEADS  Applications for 2020 Now Available!

Hackensack, New Jersey – A persistent question facing every sector is, “Where will the next generation of ethical, effective leaders come from?” The answer - Bergen LEADS. Bergen LEADS is a program of the Bergen Volunteer Center. The Bergen Volunteer Center strengthens the community by connecting people through service and developing civic leaders. Under the guidance of former Bergen County Executive William Schuber, the LEADS Seminar Director, Bergen LEADS is now in its 12th year.

Bergen LEADS is a 10 month community leadership program for adults who live or work in Bergen County. Interactive, fast paced and experiential, the program is delivered through a series of “Issue Days”, which include discussion with community leaders, site visits, small group interaction and personal reflection. Each class completes a capstone project which provides an opportunity to develop solutions to real issues in Bergen County. Relationships generated from Bergen LEADS transcend the program due to the active alumni that coordinate events and networking opportunities. 

Bergen LEADS applications for the Class of 2020 are now available at bergenleads.org and are due by April 12th. Bergen LEADS seeks representation from a broad array of ethnic, racial, religious and socio-economic groups. Lynne Algrant, CEO of Bergen Volunteer Center and Bergen LEADS co-seminar director knows that, “Diversity of participants is essential”. Applicants from business, nonprofit, civic faith-based, and government organizations, as well as from the community at large, are encouraged to apply. Tuition is $2,500 and scholarship assistance is available for those with financial need.

To apply: http://www.bergenvolunteers.org/leads-experience. Contact Melissa LaRobardier at 201-489-9454 x 206 or melissal@bergenvolunteers.org for additional information.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Corporate Day of Service; SAMSUNG Gives at Lorimer Nature Center

Franklin Lakes, New Jersey – New Jersey’s Audubon’s Lorrimer Nature Center was a host site for Samsung’s 8th Day of Service on Friday October 12th, a national program where 4,000 employees across the U.S. are given the day off to make a difference in their communities. Coordinated through the Bergen Volunteer Center, over 20 employees from Samsung Electronics America’s NJ office helped ensure that trails stay safe and are accessible to handicap visitors. Volunteers shouldered shovels and rakes; hauled, dumped and spread over 21 tons of trail stone, driveway stone, and wood chips making areas of the sanctuary safer for children and adults. Samsung volunteers are helping to ensure that all visitors, regardless of abilities, can enjoy the nature trails and participate in classes, tours, and events.

The work Samsung volunteers completed was monumental in impacting the Lorrimer’s Center capacity of serving those with impairments, disabilities, and handicaps. Carol Diveny, the Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations of New Jersey Audubon was ecstatic to have Samsung volunteers spend their day at Lorrimer Nature Center. Diveny stated that, “This was all completed in one day--work that would have taken our nature center staff about 3 months to tackle. Thank you Samsung. You are Awesome!”

Interested in having your own corporate day of service? Contact Maureen Cameron at the Bergen Volunteer Center. 201-489-9454 ext. 204 or mcameron@bergenvolunteers.org