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.

Visit the website and also follow the blog to learn more about our Redefining Retirement Matchmakers.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer but the benefits, however, are enormous to you, your family, and the individual and/or community. BUT- don’t take my word for it, read what a current mentor in the Mentoring Moms program wrote about her on going experience…

“I am very grateful to Mentoring Moms for creating an ideal match for me and "my mom". Our relationship is evidence that motherhood and sisterhood transcend differences in language and culture. Although we sometimes talk about the challenges of her circumstances, we also celebrate her achievements and I am inspired by her persistence. From our time together I have seen that true character shines through the most difficult situations and in many ways, I want to be like her when I grow up. I have learned how effortless it is to change a person's day by simply seeing an appreciating her as she is in any given moment. This has been a truly rewarding experience, and I recommend being a mentor to anyone with a little love and respect to give.”

Thank you Phillicia for all that you do as one of the mentors at Bergen Volunteer Center and thank you for underscoring the fact that ‘mentoring is a two way street’. To learn more about the effects of mentoring, click on the article below.

It’s a two-way street: Four ways mentoring benefits the mentor

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I am writing this blog as Debbie Emery, daughter of the recently deceased, 91 year old, Louis Francis. My dad, a man with a large personality and larger heart, passed away on February 12th, widowed just three years earlier. I am also Debbie Emery, Director of Community and Youth Engagement for the Bergen Volunteer Center. You may wonder what one has to do with the other?
Tasked with both honoring and packing up a long and wonderful life, my sister and I had to figure out what to do with all the “things” collected these past 91 years. We knew exactly where to put the years and decades of love and memories. But the “things” all the “things”! There was clothing, paperwork, personal items, treasures and furniture. The one thing we learned from our dad was that there is probably someone or someplace that can benefit from those “things” and try to help someone first before simply getting rid of it all.

Because of my work with the Bergen Volunteer Center, I am aware of community programs that help. And the programs I was able to work closely with were literally under my nose, right here at the Volunteer Center. Mentoring Moms and Mentoring Youth were on my radar and the director was able to identify a young, loving family within the program that needed furniture. Making-It-Home made it possible to consider donating furniture to individuals and families that need it. So when my two worlds collided and knowing in my heart what my dad would have done, that choice was easy. First locate a family that could use the items, and work with the dynamos, Cynthia and Chris of Making-It-Home, to put all the pieces in place. 

So, we found the perfect Mentoring family and Making-It- Home took over. First Class Movers volunteered their truck, their muscle and mostly their hearts to pick up 91 years’ worth of a great life and share a bit of that legacy with a young, loving family in need of just a bit of support and furniture!

The family was overcome with joy and gratitude not only upon being a benefactor of my father’s legacy but also with the interior decorating tips provided by Cynthia.

For more information about Making- It -Home, Mentoring Moms and Mentoring Youth, please contact the Bergen Volunteer Center,, or 201-489-9454.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


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 to send 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). Case and point, last spring when two young children lost their father, the SCF stepped in and provided scholarships which allowed these children to form memories that will last a lifetime while giving a respite from their grief. 

To apply for a scholarship, log on to

The summer camp experience can give a child an advantage in school and in life. Research shows that camp does the following:
  • Enhances self confidence
  • Helps kids unplug and build friendships
  • Reintroduces kids to nature
  • Fosters teamwork
  • Encourages personal growth
In 2017 the Summer Campership Fund helped 49 children have a terrific summer by providing $58,795 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 giving!