Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Reflections InterACTive Summer Experience ( RISE)

Summer is here and the RISE ( Reflections InterACTive Summer Experience) program, now in its 6th year, is open for enrollment. The program is free with open enrollment to any Bergen County teen entering 9th  through  12th grade.  Spread the word!

Reflections InterACTive Summer Experience
a program of the
Bergen County Division of Family Guidance

 Summer Acting improvisation experience for teens 
 Rehearsals, Performances, Workshops and Social Events 
 Meet other teens with similar interests

Activities will be held :
 When: Tuesday nights  from July 10th - August 28th
            Time:   5:30 pm-8:00 pm 
                      Division of Family Guidance – Multi-purpose room
                      Hackensack, NJ

You can attend ONE rehearsal, or attend ALL – whatever works for you!

Contact Staci Block at and/or 201 336- 7361. Additional information

Monday, June 11, 2018

Introducing Chris Schwake, Program Manager Extraordinaire at Making-It-Home

By Cynthia Massarsky

How well would we operate without Chris? Anyone who has come in contact with Chris knows the answer – not very well at all! Chris brings both style and organization to Making-It-Home, and all with a sensitivity and patience that helps make our program sing. On a daily basis, Chris coordinates a myriad of activities that many would find daunting – from interacting with furniture donors to recruiting volunteers to driving the truck that transports gently-used pieces to dozens of clients in need. Intuitively, Chris works to select the best combination of furniture for our clients and the right volunteers to help bring it to them. She knows how to organize our warehouse space to promote maximum efficiency. .She compiles all our statistics. Her master ability in scheduling both donor pick-ups and client deliveries in a single afternoon is unsurpassed. And she’s our resident photographer too, snapping shots of our clients in their new spaces and thoughtfully sending them to their case managers as well as Bergen County residents who donated the new furnishings. Kudos to Chris Schwake whose warm smile and extraordinary talent is appreciated each day!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Announcing the CHEER program at Bergen Volunteer Center

The Bergen Volunteer Center is proud to announce CHEER as its newest program. CHEER was previously one of the services offered by Visiting Homemaker Home Health Aide Service of Bergen County. CHEER is funded in part by a grant from the Bergen County Department of Human Services. It also receives funding from corporations, private foundations, and individual donors.

CHEER provides a helping hand to isolated and frail seniors of Bergen County, thus allowing them to retain their independence. Trained CHEER aides and volunteers conduct weekly visits to assist with shopping, errands, laundry, and light housekeeping. Aids and volunteers often develop lasting relationships with these seniors as they offer companionship and, whenever possible, create opportunities for them to be engaged in their communities. This type of minimal service is sometimes all that is needed to enable an elderly person to continue to remain safely in the comfort of their home.

To be eligible for the CHEER program, the senior must:
           reside in Bergen County
           be at least 60 years old
           have no other able bodied person living with them.

CHEER is a life saver to all we serve and thus far CHEER under the auspices of Bergen Volunteer Center is helping approximately 90 seniors per week.

“The addition of CHEER to our other services, Chore Service and Redefining Retirement makes the Bergen Volunteer Center an essential part of Successful Aging in Bergen County. We are thrilled to welcome CHEER and endeavors to help these volunteers turn their caring into meaningful action for our senior citizen neighbors and friends,” remarked Lynne Algrant, Bergen Volunteer Center CEO.

To participate in the program and/or to volunteer, contact Michele Ogden at 201.489.9454 x203 or 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Nam Knights Motorcycle Club Invests Time, Money

By Chris Schwake

It wasn’t enough for members of the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club to provide significant financial support to furnish the homes of 14 disabled, formerly homeless veterans at the Emerson Veterans Supportive Housing development last year. Certainly, hearing their Harleys roar as they rolled up to the ribbon cutting ceremony could have been the icing on the cake. But they didn’t stop there… 

Since October, Nam Knights members have switched out their bikes for a moving truck, rolled up the sleeves on their leather jackets, and hauled more than 50 pieces of furniture for five new clients of the Making-It-Home Program.

Part of the Nam Knights’ mission is to “…assist veterans and police officers in their time of need…” These great men live up to every word. Making-It-Home brings gently-used furniture to formerly homeless people leaving emergency shelter for new apartments. Many of our clients are veterans, some are disabled, and all are in need of help. Our corps of volunteers help us get the donated furniture where it needs to go. Some even stick around to assemble tables, re-arrange pieces so they’re just right, hang pictures, and do whatever else is necessary to make our clients feel comfortable in their new spaces. That’s what the Nam Knights do!

Thank you to Mike, Jack, Don, Pat, Jim and other Nam Knights members– we couldn’t succeed without you! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Making-It-Home Matches Colorful Furniture with Catherine's Bright Smile

By Chris Schwake, Making-It-Home

Making-It-Home brings furniture to formerly homeless people leaving emergency shelter and starting over in new but unfurnished apartments. Our clients lack the disposable income necessary to purchase and transport furniture to their new spaces. Without a comfortable place to sit, a table at which to eat and a dresser to store your clothing, a room can feel chaotic, lonely and uninspiring. That’s why we reached out to the Bergen County community to collect unwanted, gently-used pieces and give them to those who need and appreciate them.

Some of our clients are open to letting us add a little pizazz to their apartments. We knew Catherine liked pops of color the first time we met her. She was wearing a ruffled blouse and sparkling earrings, and she had a brightly colored blanket on her bed. We asked if she wanted a few pieces that would stand out against her beige walls, and if she was OK with the color purple. We always ask what people like and try to match their style with the donated pieces in our storage unit.

Making-It-Home furnished Catherine’s bedroom, dining area and living room with bright lights and colorful pieces. We dressed up a medium brown kitchen table with a shiny patterned tablecloth and livened up her living room with a love-seat, a flower printed fabric-covered side chair, a purple ottoman, and a matching green lamp shade. Now Catherine has a cheery space that she calls home.

Read more about Making-It-Home on our website at

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,