Sunday, February 12, 2017

CollegeLEADS Kicks Off the Semester


CollegeLEADS at Bergen Community College is a partnership with the Bergen Volunteer Center, established to ignite the spirit of civic engagement and the exploration of issues facing Bergen County.  Twenty (20) Bergen Community College students began a semester-long look at the issues surrounding heroin addiction and abuse in Bergen County.  Four seminars, legal and criminal, mental health, physical health and education will be the focus of the students’ program.   


On Friday, February 3rd, the students visited the Bergen County Jail and the Housing, Health and Human Services Center.  They toured the jail, met with corrections officers, inmates, and a rehabilitation counselor to take an in-depth look at the corrections process.  Visiting the shelter brought light to the Housing First approach to dealing with homelessness.  The goal is to place individuals who are homeless in housing and provide the support services to ensure that the placement is permanent.

One student reflected on her visit, “Before we had time to feel shocked or express criticism towards those officials, they explain that the job is rather frustrating, allowing us to step into the shoes of the younger officials. I find this rather rare, having always seen a spirit of criticism in the workplace. Here, it is as if the older officials take care of both the younger ones and the inmates. It wasn't in a showy way, but every step they took was calculated and done with great compassion.”

To learn more about youth engagement click here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

“I have to learn to read local news differently.”

“I have to learn to read local news differently.”
By Lynne Algrant

These were my thoughts after hearing Nancy Meyer, President and CEO of North Jersey Media Group at the Fifth Friday Forum on January 27, 2017.

Ms. Meyer was warm, gracious and clear about the future of media. “Digital transformation” is happening and I realized that I better get on board. For while she promised that a physical newspaper will be printed as long as people want one (to audible cheers), she also told us that NorthJersey.com is averaging 2 million unique visitors a month and half of those are coming to the site from their phones! Me, my ink stained fingers and torn out articles stuffed in my bag are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Truthfully, I consume a lot of news from a device. I enjoy aggregating different news sources through the Flipboard app, and as anyone, who has talked to me even a little, knows, I love podcasts. Instead of plugging in intravenously to NPR in my car, I plug in my headphones and listen to my favorite shows while walking the dog or doing the grocery shopping. And as I try to stick to my resolution to “do” social media more, I admit that posting and tweeting interesting articles is easier when you are already reading online.

And yet, there is something about scanning the headlines and turning to the jump in a long story over a cup of tea in the morning that feels hard to give up—especially when the stories are about my neighborhood, Bergen County.

So here is what I am committing myself to trying after hearing Nancy Meyer speak:

  • Given the fact that North Jersey Media Group reaches 98% of North Jersey residents with their products—98%!—I am committing myself to think about my neighborhood as bigger than just Bergen County. As much I as preach “county-wide thinking” and that we all need to “share more,”—I realize that I have to start thinking about our region, not just our county. She said that she had to be reminded that “North Jersey is a big quilt, but it comes together.” I have to be reminded that there are many more patches in that quilt than the 70 towns in Bergen County.
  • She told us that Gannett was interested in North Jersey Media group because they see this area as a “robust market” and an “influencer community.” I have been a big champion of the fact that, as Phil Dolce of Bergen Community College says, “Bergen County is the most suburbanized county in the most suburbanized state.” Our challenges and opportunities are significant, both for our region and for other regions in the USA. She mentioned that 12 stories from The Record have landed on the front page of USA Today since September. This national exposure is good for us as a region and it gives us a huge opportunity to have more of an influence on national policies. And we can’t have this kind of exposure outside of the “digital transformation.”
  • She said that they are committed to Investigative Reporting, Local Reporting and the Reach and multi-media story telling that the internet provides. She reminded us of the essential role the media plays in a healthy democracy (and even an unhealthy one)—and I know how vital the local media is to keeping our communities honest and fair--so I am committed to staying engaged and learning how to read local news differently.


Thank you Nancy for sharing your thoughts and insights with us at the Fifth Friday Forum.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Making-It-Home Makes Two Bergen County Residents Feel At Home

On January 10th Tonya moved from emergency shelter to her new apartment in Little Ferry with an office job and a plan to continue her education.  For her, a desk was more important than a sofa – we brought both!  For this “move” we worked with officers from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department who donated their time, a truck and muscle to bring 11 pieces of furniture and accessories to her home so that Tonya can comfortably pursue her dream for a better future.


Mike, a marine veteran, was able to secure full-time employment before moving to his new apartment in Teaneck, but had only a bed when he moved in.  And with no overhead lights, he was literally living in the dark.  On January 14th we worked with three wonderful Teaneck police officers and one young associate to bring Mike 9 pieces of furniture, as well as lamps, to make his new apartment comfortable and well-lit!  Additional muscle from a charitable father/son team helped transport the furniture and get it in the apartment.  The team even assembled the kitchen table.  In total, 6 volunteers and 3 pick-up trucks made this move possible. 



If you would like to volunteer your time, vehicle and muscle, please contact Christine at cschwake@bergenvolunteers.org.  We would love to welcome you to our team!  

Friday, January 20, 2017

It’s a Twofer!

Need storage space? Here’s a great way to double your investment. Mention our name when you rent at Westy Self Storage – any size space at any location for any length of time – and Making-It-Home receives a free month on our lease!

Westy Self Storage-Hackensack is where we bring all the furniture that’s donated by people like you. We store it there until our volunteer movers help transport it to our clients – formerly homeless individuals and families who are leaving emergency shelter and moving to new apartments in the County. We couldn’t operate efficiently without storage space, and couldn’t be happier at Westy. The staff are friendly and helpful, and the facility is clean and dry and temperature controlled (warm during these cold winter months and cool in the summer). And we never need to worry about getting furniture into our unit. There’s a loading dock at truck level, doors at street level, and plenty of rolling carts. There’s even a truck and van available if you need one. We know you’d be as happy as we are if you rented there too! 

As you may know, Making-It-Home is a program of the Volunteer Center – a public/private partnership that brings gently used, donated home furnishings to low income and formerly homeless people, veterans, and people with disabilities who are leaving emergency shelter and moving to new apartments throughout Bergen County. So many County residents, businesses, moving companies, police departments, and government and nonprofit agencies are working with us to improve our clients’ quality of life and ability to achieve greater self-sufficiency and a brighter future.

To learn more about Making-It-Home, visit www.bergenvolunteers.org/making-it-home.html. 




Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mentoring Youth celebrate National Mentor Month

On Sunday, January 8, 2017, one of the coldest days of the year, the Mentoring Youth Program celebrated our wonderful volunteer mentors with a delicious brunch at the Iron Horse Restaurant in Westwood, NJ. The Iron Horse has been our gracious host for over 10 years.

The warmth of the fireplace added to the warmth generated by our exceptional mentors.  Mentors of all ages, volunteering with the program for less than a year to 25 years, were glad to meet, mingle, and share stories of their experiences.   The event is annually held in January because it is National Mentoring Month.

Lynne Algrant, CEO of the Bergen Volunteer Center, welcomed the mentors and applauded them for the work they do.  Faith Samples-Smart, Mentoring Youth program director recognized Ruth Schneider of Ramsey, for mentoring eight youth over a 25 year period.  She had decided that it’s time to retire but will continue to see her mentee.  She is an amazing woman who has devoted many, many years to helping children find a voice and offering them friendship in a way that has and will continue to impact their lives.

Mentoring Youth, a program of the Bergen Volunteer Center, trains and matches volunteer adults with children between the ages of 5-21 who are referred to us through a social service organization.  Giving their time, attention and care to a child is celebrated by Mentoring Youth yearly at this event.  Mentoring Youth is about to celebrate 40 years of service to our Bergen County children and the adults who volunteer to be a friend, role-model and confidante. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Bergen LEADS Application, Now Available

Bergen LEADS - an innovative, 10-month learning and leadership program for adults who live or work in Bergen County - is now accepting applications for the Class of 2018. Bergen LEADS, now in its ninth year, is offered by the Bergen Volunteer Center.

Under the guidance of former Bergen County Executive William “Pat” Schuber, the LEADS Seminar Director, participants are immersed in a stimulating curriculum that introduces them to issues of local importance and encourages them to explore their leadership style, enhance their leadership capacity and become meaningfully engaged in helping to solve some of the challenges facing Bergen County.

The online application form for the Class of 2018, which begins in September 2017, can be accessed at 
www.bergenleads.org and is due by April 9, 2017. Each candidate must complete a simple individual profile form and provide essay answers to specific questions. The new class of 30 participants will be announced in June.

“When you look at recent history, the major turmoils are caused in part, by a lack of effective leadership at many levels,” says Lynne Algrant, the Center’s CEO. “Consequently, a persistent question facing every sector is ‘where will the next generation of ethical, effective leaders come from?’” Enter Bergen LEADS, which prepares leaders to take the helm in the years ahead.

“Diversity of participants is essential,” continues Ms. Algrant. Applicants from business, nonprofit, civic and faith-based organizations and government agencies, as well as from the community at large, are encouraged to apply. Bergen LEADS seeks representation from the broad array of ethnic, racial, religious and socio-economic groups within Bergen County. Tuition for Bergen LEADS is $2,000 per person; scholarship assistance is available for those with financial need.

Bergen LEADS will help participants see the community – and themselves – through new eyes,” says Ms. Algrant. “The curriculum is interactive, fast-paced and experiential. Field trips and site visits built into each seminar day will bring Bergen County to life.”

Bergen LEADS has an active graduate organization – Alumni of Bergen LEADS (ABL) - to keep LEADS alumni engaged and active throughout their careers in Bergen County.

Additional information about the program is available at 
www.bergenleads.org or by contacting Beanne DeGuzman at 201-489-9454 Ext. 203, or bdeguzman@bergenvolunteers.org

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Entertainers playing Santa

The Residents of the Lillian Booth Actors Fund Home played Santa for the moms from Bergen Volunteer Center’s Mentoring Moms Program.  

The Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey, is an assisted living and skilled nursing care facility, which provides a comfortable living environment for 124 entertainment professionals.  Wanting to provide a some holiday cheer and kindness, the group created lovely gift bags for 53 women to receive this holiday season.  Shopping, sorting and wrapping were all part of the project. 

One of the residents remarked “We had so much fun and it felt good to something nice for someone else.”  

To help others in need for the holidays please visit bergenvolunteers.org.