Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Corporate Corner - Books in a Bag

Over 8,000 new children’s books were donated through the Volunteer Center of Bergen County’s Business Volunteer Council (BVC), Books in a Bag program. Books in a Bag is a BVC initiative that collects new books for low income families and is distributed to early childhood education centers and families served through the Volunteer Center of Bergen County's Bergen Mentors program. 
Volunteers from Business Volunteer Council member companies United Water and Hudson City Savings Bank packed 2,760 of the books into drawstring bags in early March, which were then distributed to 460 pre-K and kindergarten students at the Quarles School in Englewood. On March 18th, in honor of Read Across America Day, volunteers from BVC member company TD Bank read the books to an attentive audience of children at the school.
The remaining books will be distributed at an annual book fair on April 25, 2015 for children and families mentored through the Bergen Mentors program. Bergen Mentors is comprised of two support programs, Mentoring Youth, which provides mentors to children who have suffered severe abuse and neglect, and Mentoring Moms, which provides support to mothers struggling to provide for their families. A combined 182 children are served by the two programs, 95% of whom are from low-income families. Buying books at a bookstore or at their school book fair is a luxury that is often not in the family budget for many of the children in Bergen Mentors, so this special book fair will enable the children to have books of their very own to keep and enjoy.
“According to Project Literacy of Bergen County, more than 150,000 people in Bergen County cannot read beyond the 4th grade level,” states Erica West, the Volunteer Center’s Director of Corporate Engagement. “The Business Volunteer Council recognizes that literacy is not just the responsibility of our educational system, but the entire community and is poised to change the statistics. Books in a Bag was created not only to teach our children the value of reading, but to educate parents on the significant impact family reading can have on a child’s development.”
Books were generously donated by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, United Water, KPMG, Konica Minolta, Jacome America, Scholastic, BD and Books and Greetings bookstore. Books in a Bag was sponsored by Business Volunteer Council member companies Konica Minolta, United Water, BD and Rockland Electric. Sonja Clark of United Water states, “The books donated for the Books in a Bag initiative are an important first step in promoting and encouraging the importance of reading in young learners. United Water has been a key supporter of the Books in a Bag program and as a result is making a lasting contribution to children and families in need throughout Bergen County.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Summer Leadership Program Planned for Middle and High School Students

Leadership and Community Service the Focus of Week-Long Activities

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County will be offering two sessions of a one-week summer service and leadership program for local students this summer. The program, Ready, Set, Serve, is scheduled for June 22-25 for students entering 9th or 10th grade this September, and August 31-September 3 for students entering grades 6, 7 or 8. Both sessions will be held at the Volunteer Center in Hackensack from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm daily.

Ready, Set, Serve is an exciting and challenging summer program for Bergen County students who will be immersed in a week of interactive, interesting and fun activities, learning leadership skills that will help them make a difference in their schools and communities. The focus of Ready, Set, Serve is community service. Through a state-of –the-art curriculum that includes both classroom instruction and experiential training, students will participate in challenging exercises including community needs analysis, goal setting, team building, project planning, decision making and other dynamic leadership skills.

The Ready, Set, Serve experience continues beyond the one week in summer. Participants will continue to meet monthly from September through March to discuss and work on individual or group service projects. A graduation and project presentation will be held in conjunction with the Volunteer Center’s Celebrate Volunteers recognition event in April 2016.

“The ultimate purpose of Ready, Set, Serve is to help create stronger communities - and a stronger nation - by igniting in young people the ability and desire to make meaningful, lifelong contributions to their communities,” says Debbie Emery, Community Volunteer Services Director at the Volunteer Center. “Students participating in this program will have a great activity to add to their high school applications, as well as service hours they can use to meet requirements of schools and religious institutions.”

The fee to attend this program is $350 per student, which includes all class materials, snacks, beverages and lunch on the Friday closing session. Students provide their own lunch the other days. The deadline for application is May 31. Tuition can be paid online by clicking here. Call 201-489-9454 Ext. 118 or email for more information or to obtain an application.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Local Children in Need of Mentors

Each year in Bergen County approximately 600 children are removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or isolation. They are placed in foster homes, residential facilities, hospitals, shelters or in the care of other family members. The Volunteer Center of Bergen County’s Mentoring Youth program is currently recruiting volunteer mentors for children ages 3-18 who are facing these difficult challenges.
For more than 30 years, Mentoring Youth has trained and supervised adult volunteers to serve as mentors to children who are confronting adverse challenges at home and in life and experiencing social, emotional and behavioral problems. Mentors serve as positive role models; they provide guidance, friendship and support, and advocate on behalf of children when necessary.
The next 3-week Mentoring Youth training program begins on Wednesday, March 18, 2015. Each Wednesday session is held from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at the Volunteer Center of Bergen County.
“Volunteers in the Mentoring Youth program improve the lives and experiences of children who need someone they can trust, someone to show them they are not alone,” says Janet Sharma, Volunteer Center CEO. “There is an especially great need for men to mentor boys and for bi-lingual, Spanish-speaking mentors of both genders, and there are not nearly enough volunteers enrolled so far.”
“These children are waiting for someone to step in and believe in them, to encourage them to laugh and succeed,” says Dr. Faith Samples-Smart, Mentoring Youth Program Director. “We consider time spent with mentors as free time: free of the challenges children confront in their daily environments at home and/or at school. What a gift to have this respite and safe zone with a caring adult.”
For more information about the Mentoring Youth program, contact Eva Tobias at (201) 489-9454 Ext. 121, or click here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Women Volunteers Needed to Mentor Struggling Mothers and their Families

Raising children today is a challenge for any parent, but it can be especially overwhelming for mothers who are living on the edge of stability due to poverty, a history of trauma or abuse, and/or mental illness. Mentoring Moms, a program of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, trains volunteer mentors to work with mothers who are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of children and life and who are also faced with immense personal challenges. When a struggling mother is supported by a mentor, the entire family benefits from that support. Adult women are needed as mentors for mothers living in Bergen County. There is an especially great need for women who speak other languages to become mentors.

“It is so great to have a friend, someone I can really talk to.” “I have learned so much about raising my son.” “I feel better as a parent and a person since meeting my mentor,” say mothers being mentored through Mentoring Moms.  The mentors listen, share ideas and offer support as mothers deal with the daily challenges of raising children, while also trying to manage overwhelming personal challenges. 95% of the mothers being mentored are living in poverty, even in Bergen County.

Registration is now open for Mentoring Moms Spring training, which begins April 13th from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Volunteer Center of Bergen County. Call (201) 489-9454, ext. 123 to learn how to become a Mentoring Moms volunteer, and positively change a mother’s – and her family’s – life.
Read more about Mentoring Moms here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Deadline Approaching to Apply for Bergen LEADS Class of 2016

Applications are due April 11, 2015, for Bergen LEADS, an innovative, 10-month learning and leadership program for adults who live or work in Bergen County.

Men and women from the private sector, nonprofit agencies and government organizations, as well as community volunteers, are encouraged to submit an application form, available at

Bergen LEADS is sponsored by the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, which has successfully engaged Bergen County residents in civic life for more than 40 years. Bergen LEADS - led by former Bergen County Executive William “Pat” Schuber - carries on that tradition by providing an extraordinarily rich, diverse and stimulating program focusing on topical issues, leadership and community trusteeship. 

“We’re seeking individuals from all ethnic, racial and socio-economic backgrounds who espouse different political, religious and social views,” says Mr. Schuber. “In short, we want our class to represent and celebrate the rich diversity of Bergen County.”

Participants will be selected on the basis of demonstrated interest in the community, achievement in their professions and/or volunteer activities, and potential for responsible and effective leadership.

For more information on the Bergen LEADS program, go to or call Beanne DeGuzman at 201-489-9454. ext. 112, or email

Bergen LEADS is supported by funding from the Lillian Pitkin Schenck Fund, United Water Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Hudson City Savings Charitable Foundation and the Palisades Educational Foundation.

Bergen LEADS is a program of The Volunteer Center of Bergen County. The Volunteer Center strengthens the community by connecting people through service and developing civic leaders.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lynne Algrant Named New CEO

Lynne Algrant  (right) has been named CEO of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, effective April 1. She succeeds Janet Sharma, who had previously announced her retirement.

“We are thrilled to welcome Lynne as our next CEO,” said David Warshaw, President of the Volunteer Center Board. “Her leadership skills, civic engagement experience and community knowledge are an ideal combination that will help the Volunteer Center build on its already enviable record of achievement.”
Click here for full announcement.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Volunteer Management Workshop Planned

How to Create and Run a Successful Program
The Volunteer Center of Bergen County is offering a comprehensive, six-hour course entitled “Essentials of Volunteer Management: From Development to Achievement” on Friday, March 20, 2015 from 8:30 am to 3 pm at the Center at 64 Passaic Street in Hackensack. The $100 registration fee includes breakfast, lunch and curriculum binder. Participants from Volunteer Center Member Agencies pay only $75; contact the Volunteer Center for more information on becoming a Member Agency.
Participants will “learn the ropes” of volunteer management in this course, which will cover important points needed to create and run a successful volunteer program, to include:
  • Planning the Volunteer Program
  • Recruitment and Placement
  • Orientation and Training
  • Supervision and Recognition
  • Evaluation of the Program
Best practices and new trends in volunteer management will be discussed, including how to use social media and traditional media to market to volunteers and other supporters, how to engage leadership-level volunteers, and how to target recruitment efforts to specific demographics.
The most recent data shows the average monetary value of time donated by volunteers was $25.33 per hour in 2014, according to a study by Independent Sector, a Washington coalition of major charities and foundations. Coupled with the figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that over 63 million people volunteer an average of 50 hours over a 12 month period , the economic benefits of an efficiently run volunteer program are evident.
“By implementing the practical solutions offered in this workshop, volunteer coordinators can improve their professional skills and learn to manage people who are eager to give their time and talent to help our community,” says Janet Sharma, Chief Executive Officer of the Volunteer Center. “We know that volunteers must be engaged to be effective,” continues Sharma. “Ensuring that those who manage volunteers have the necessary skills is critical to the success of non-profit organizations.”
Class size is limited; registration deadline is March 6, 2015. Participants will be enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Volunteer Center also offers “Volunteer Managers’ Roundtable” lunchtime discussions on volunteer management. Sessions are informal and interactive, and participants are invited to bring their own lunch and be prepared to learn from and share with other industry professionals. Sessions are from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm at the Volunteer Center on March 19, May 21, July 23, September 24 and November 19. Volunteer Managers’ Roundtables are free for Member Agencies; $10 for non-agency members.
For more information or to register for “Essentials of Volunteer Management” or “Volunteer Managers’ Roundtables”, send an e-mail to: or call Debbie Emery at (201) 489-9454 Ext. 118.