Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Celebrating Older Americans Month

Older Americans Month is a time where we recognize the many contributions of senior citizens throughout their lives. They have gone above and beyond to serve their community as mentors and volunteers. You’ll find no finer display of older Americans using their talent and passion to give back than the volunteers from Redefining Retirement, Bergen Reads, CHORE, and CHEER. Not content to just spend their well-earned retirement relaxing, they give their time freely where they are most needed.

The Redefining Retirement program encourages older adults to utilize their unique skills to strengthen the community. Participants are connected and matched to opportunities with non-profit agencies based on their life experiences and personal interests. In the current environment, many volunteers have found ways to continue to improves the lives of others, even while they are following the guidelines to stay healthy, stay safe and stay home.The Redefining Retirement team is working to be ready for a program comeback,hopefully in the fall. 

Bergen Reads, reading buddies, including retired educators, work one-on-one with students from Kindergarten through 4th grade to improve their reading. Volunteers sit down with students in Teaneck and Hackensack public schools on a weekly basis. They serve as tutors and mentors, and advocate on behalf of the student to make sure they don’t fall behind. With schools being closed due to the global pandemic, they may need to look to expand the scope of their services. Moving lessons from the classroom to the living room has created new challenges, and it is easy for struggling students to fall through the cracks. The team may explore ways to provide virtual services to offer the individual attention that students need to succeed.

CHORE is a service program whose goal is to keep the elderly and disabled safely living in their homes. All of the CHORE participants are retired, with some volunteering well into their 80s! Every week, volunteers perform tasks such as installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fixing leaky faucets, weatherizing doors and windows, minor electrical work, and much more. There is no charge for labor; clients only need to pay for the cost of materials. One of their specialties is installing grab bars and banisters, which cut down on preventable falls and hospitalizations. Beyond providing essential repairs with minimal cost, clients are touched by the kindness of CHORE volunteers. They understand that a little conversation can go a long way to ease social isolation.

Much like CHORE, the CHEER program is aimed at supporting the independence of seniors and people with disabilities. Volunteers provide much needed services such as weekly grocery shopping and prescription medicine pick up. Now that many seniors are being advised to shelter in place, these services are more important than ever. Volunteers form strong connections with their clients through their friendly support and companionship. While they currently cannot offer their company in person, CHEER volunteers have been conducting regular check-in calls. Not only do they try to make sure their clients are feeling well, but they are combating loneliness, one phone call at a time.

We’re always looking for generous seniors who would like to share their talents with the community. If any of these programs interest you, please contact us using the e-mail addresses below to learn how you can get involved: 

For information on Redefining Retirement, contact

 For information on Bergen Reads, contact Melissa LaRobardier at

For information on CHEER or CHORE, contact the Successful Aging Team at

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month. Though 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness in their lifetime, nearly two thirds will never seek treatment. Together we can help end stigma and educate the public on mental health issues. 

You are Not Alone

We are living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Unfortunately, isolation, job loss, and other problems that have been exacerbated by the global pandemic are also having a major impact on mental health. Though at times it may be overwhelming, try making time to relax, practice self-care, and reach out to loved ones. If you are struggling, it’s important to know that you are not alone and there is help.

If you or someone you care about is going through a mental health crisis, don’t hesitate to call a mental health hotline:

Bergen Volunteers Cares about Mental Health

Some of the biggest contributing factors to mental health problems are family issues, low self-esteem, and poor physical health. At Bergen Volunteers, we prioritize helping vulnerable populations cope with life’s challenges and supply them with the tools they need to thrive.

Successful Families encompasses mentoring programs for parents and at-risk youth. We are all affected by the things that happen to us on a daily basis, both the negative and the positive. The Mentoring Moms & Dads and Mentoring Youth programs provide access to solid support systems for those that need them. Mentees can build resilience that not only allows them to overcome obstacles, but also makes it easier to handle future challenges.

To learn more about being matched with a mentor, or even becoming one yourself, 
contact Lisa Tredici at

Engaging in volunteer activities not only imparts a sense of belonging, but when you do something you believe is meaningful, you feel empowered. Bergen LEADS, College LEADS, and Teen LEADS are programs that develop leadership skills and self-confidence. By finding new approaches to problem-solving skills, LEADers make a lasting impact in the community and gain valuable tools that they can use in their personal life.

Redefining Retirement utilizes the amazing skills and experiences of our retirees, matching their talents and interests to serve our communities.  Providing networking, collaborative efforts and training to the non-profit community strengthens our community-wide resources and responds to the physical, social, and mental wellness of others. 

To learn more about our Strengthening Community programs, 
contact Debbie Emery at

Seniors are often overlooked when it comes to mental health. According to Aging Care, “In older adults, depression often co-occurs with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, dementia, Parkinson's disease, and changes in mobility and independence.” With the goal of keeping seniors living independently in their homes, volunteers from the CHEER and CHORE programs perform essential tasks such as small home repairs, grocery shopping, running errands, or simply offering friendly conversation. Whether it’s preventing injury by installing a grab bar or delivering much-needed medication, these services reduce the impact that physical health has on the mental health of CHEER and CHORE clients. 

To learn more about CHEER and CHORE,
 contact the Successful Aging Team at

Monday, April 20, 2020

Volunteer Spotlight: U&I Masks for Kids

During these difficult times, it's important to recognize those who are doing their part to help the community. U&I Masks is dedicated to making protective masks for children. Julie Song and her partner Gieun Chae's goal is to create masks that not only make sure that kids are healthy, but are fun to wear!

Keeping Kids Safe, One Mask at a Time

Hello! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this time of the COVID-19 virus. I would first like to take this opportunity to introduce myself, Julie Song, as well as my partner, Gieun Chae. This global pandemic has been evolving at a much faster rate than any of us could envision, infecting more than 400,000 people in the U.S. alone. The rapid spread of this virus has endangered many lives of the older generation, causing the public to focus their attention on the safety of elderly adults. Unfortunately, while the importance of protecting seniors has constantly received recognition, many have overlooked the lives and the safety of children.

Believing that the protection of children is just as significant, my partner and I wanted to take action for the sole purpose of making sure kids are safe and healthy during this epidemic. We desired to bring a light of hope to this season of negativity by spending our time in quarantine reaching out and helping children in need. After many discussions and planning about what we could do to help, we decided to create our own kid-friendly face mask organization: U&I Masks. Our service in this organization is solely for the lives of each and every child. For the masks, we use materials like soft fabric and kid-friendly designs so that kids can enjoy wearing them while staying protected!

Primarily, our name “U&I” has a variety of important meanings behind it. First, the “I”, pronounced (ah-ee), means child in the Korean language, ultimately signifying our main motive to help protect the children around us. Secondly, the name “U&I” as a whole indicates that you and I are united as one during this time of the pandemic and how vital it is for us to help one another out. During the manufacturing process, my partner and I always wear a mask and gloves while working six feet away from each other for our own safety as well as that of our recipients. We believe that having this kid-friendly platform to raise awareness of how to protect each child during current and future epidemics can be very efficient. Currently, we are working with a variety of organizations to help protect their children and families and have received a vast amount of positive feedback from the kids. Engaging in a simple yet effective action and seeing the smiles on the children’s faces brings us pure happiness and we truly believe that a small step can go a long way!

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.