Friday, January 29, 2016

Redefining Role Model

By Lynne Algrant, CEO 

On a blustery, wet Sunday a couple of weeks ago, I walked into the warmest room in Bergen County.  The Iron Horse Restaurant in Westwood opened early to host the Bergen Mentors brunch, our annual thank you to the wonderful people who serve as mentors to some of Bergen County’s most vulnerable kids.

Some mentors knew each other well. Some were just meeting for the first time. But all knew they were among special friends and good advisors. “How do you get them to put down their devices long enough to have a conversation?” was a question eagerly asked of experienced mentors of teens.  “Let me show you a picture of my mentee,” was proudly exclaimed.

We were delighted to honor Ruth Schneider, who has served as an active mentor for 25 years.  There are 8 young people in the world, whom Ruth has nurtured, and encouraged—8 people who knew they were special because of Ruth—even if life circumstances had led them to believe otherwise.  And even though Ruth is in her 80’s, she was delighted to renew her commitment and start mentoring a 5 year old.

At a time when the words “role model,” are too often applied to people because they are famous or rich—Ruth and the other Mentors—remind us of who a role model really is: a friend, an advisor, a consistent, trusted presence for a child who might otherwise not have one.

Here at the Bergen Volunteer Center, we are proud to find wonderful people like Ruth, train them to be a mentor, and support them as they change the life of a child.

We are Redefining Volunteerism and Redefining Role Model

And as Ruth demonstrates—age is just a number.  So in 2016—the 50th Anniversary of the Bergen Volunteer Center, we are proud to declare that we aren’t getting old; we are just getting started.

To learn more about becoming a mentor, click here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Local Students provide for Homeless Veterans for MLK Day

Students and teachers from Windsor Prep School in Paramus joined staff from the Bergen County Department of Veterans Affairs to sort and prepare clothing, toiletries and food items for the homeless veterans of Bergen County.

Each year, the Bergen Volunteer Center hosts a drive in honor of the extraordinary work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  “We choose to support these veterans who have served our country but are now in great need of the kindness and support of our community,” says Debbie Emery, Director of Community Engagement for the Bergen Volunteer Center.  Generous donors provided that support in the form of small toiletry items, new winter coats, fleeces and hat sets, hand warmers, blankets, backpacks and non-perishable food.  This year, the students from Windsor Prep, involved in a year-long call to service, provide the hands on support to prepare and pack the donated items.  This program is truly an example of the community neighbors helping neighbors in needs through a partnership between the County, non-profit community, kind people and companies and young students eager to get involved in lend a hand.

To find out more about getting involved in all sorts of ways, check out, Volunteer Now and see where you can help.

#Bergengivesback #HeartsofBergen

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


The Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award
Deadline: February 19, 2016

Help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award by nominating your own NJ hero by February 19th!

The Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award recognizes those who make New Jersey a better place. Every year the Russell Berrie Foundation honors “unsung” NJ heroes who have made an uncommon contribution to the common good.

Up to eleven extraordinary people can receive this award, with the top three at $50,000, $35,000 and $25,000 – and up to eight runners-up receiving $5,000 each.

Please nominate an“unsung” hero in your own community. You can nominate someone for a single act or for a lifetime of service. An Advisory Board of prominent New Jersey citizens will select the final honorees and they will be honored at a ceremony in May, 2016.

Please feel free to pass along this information to others. You can find out more, read about past honorees and nominate a hero online here.

For more information, call 201-684-7179 or e-mail

If you prefer paper, print out the PDF form and fax or mail to:

The Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award
c/o Dr. Peter Mercer, President
Ramapo College of New Jersey
505 Ramapo Valley Road
Mahwah, NJ 07430-1623

For more information, please call 201-684-7179 or email

Nominations must be received by February 19, 2015.
Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award Brochure

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Happy New Year!

by Erica West, 
Director, Corporate Engagement

The first of January is often seen as a time to reflect on the changes we want to make in our lives and a time we determine how to follow through on those changes. Repeatedly, I hear professionals in corporate and nonprofit businesses alike making resolutions to capture the illusive “work-life balance.” A concept which assumes that work and life are somehow polarized on opposite ends of some miserable seesaw. Subconsciously, it seems to imply that the more work we do, the less life we have. In her recent blog, VeraWorks founder Bea Bocclandro reminds us that we do not need to stay trapped on the work-life seesaw. Rather than trying to neutralize the stereotypical drudgery of work obligation we can change our approach, on a personal and corporate level, by applying social purpose to our corporate lives.

Companies have been embracing corporate social responsibility for over a decade, yet employee engagement continues to be a major challenge. Whether you are a small business with a one-person team or an international company with over 5,000 employees engaging employees is a recipe that is still being perfected. Yet the most important ingredient continues to be meaningful and purposeful giving. By helping business broaden their social mission, the Bergen Volunteer Center connects talented and compassionate professionals and individuals to social causes that strengthen our shared community.

For over 15 year the Bergen Volunteer Center’s Business Volunteer Council has given its corporate members’ employees a chance to direct genuine change by collaborating with nonprofits and addressing critical social issues. Our member’s collective time, skills, and resources has offered a brighter future for nearly 3,500 children and families per year. Whether it’s introducing a child to the joy of reading through Books in a Bag, educating high school teens about career goals through the Life After High School workshop, collecting food items and harvesting produce for food insecure families through Brown Bag Buddies, or serving the homeless at Project Homeless Connect, they are making a significant difference in the lives of those touched by these programs.

While group volunteering and company-wide donations carried out by the Business Volunteer Council, are an essential part of purposeful engagement, skill based volunteering adds an even higher level of engagement and purpose for employee volunteers.

BoardLink and SkillsLink, two new programs offered by the Volunteer Center in 2016, connect corporate professionals' unique skills and talents to deserving nonprofits, allowing them to fulfill important gaps in their infrastructure. The deep sense of purpose obtained by offering personal or professional strengths to help others is extraordinarily powerful.

So for this New Year consider changing your resolution. Rather than searching for work-life balance, try putting life back into your work. Then maybe we will subsequently find the balance we’ve all been seeking.


The Business Volunteer Council gives businesses a platform to successfully engage employees through volunteer service and workplace giving.

BoardLink is a highly specialized matching service that provides your nonprofit board with access to business executives and professionals who are trained and referred based on your need for particular skills, and each candidate’s specific interests.

SkillsLink matches your nonprofit with local corporate talent strategically targeting their skills to complete short term volunteer projects for nonprofits.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fifth Friday - VOTERS' CHOICE


The next presidential election will take place in November 2016. A large crowd of candidates will likely compete for the Democratic and Republican nominations as well as third party and independent hopefuls.
What will the results mean to us here in Bergen County and throughout the state?
Join us as two highly-acclaimed observers of the political process weigh in on the results of the elections.

Friday, January 29, 2016
 11:30am - 2:00pm
We have a new location!!!
Hilton Hasbrouck Heights/Meadowlands
650 Terrace Ave. Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604

Peter Woolley, Brigid Callahan Harrison & William "Pat" Schuber

Peter Woolley is Professor of Comparative Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  He is co-founder and executive director of FDU's independent survey research group, 
PublicMind.  His research in public opinion and his political commentary have been cited in news outlets from the Sydney Morning Herald to the Washington Post and the Trenton Times, from NJN to CNN, and in newspapers from Alaska's Ketchikan Daily News to the Miami Herald. 

Brigid Callahan Harrison is Professor of Political Science and Law at Montclair State University.  A frequent commentator in print and electronic media on U.S. politics, she provides regular political analysis to major news outlets and writes a weekly column on New Jersey politics in the Sunday edition of The Record. Her editorials have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Star-Ledger and The Press of Atlantic City. Harrison's research interests include Congress and the Presidency, and American public opinion. She is an expert on the politics of the Millennial Generation. 

The discussion will be moderated by William "Pat" Schuber, former Bergen County Executive and Bergen LEADS seminar director.

Monday, January 11, 2016

January is National Mentoring Month

The Fourteenth Annual National Mentoring Month is scheduled for January 2016.

The Harvard Mentoring Project of the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership jointly created National Mentoring Month, and are collaborating with the HandsOn Network, as well as other non profit groups to reach out to Americans to become a mentor to a child or adult because “Mentoring Works!”

According to MENTOR magazine, research has demonstrated that mentoring is a critical support strategy that positively impacts academic achievement in youth, workforce development and behavioral outcomes for all. A mentor working with overwhelmed parents can help the entire family thrive and has been shown to lower or prevent instances of child abuse/neglect.

The Bergen Volunteer Center, the local affiliate of the Hands On Network, has been sponsoring mentoring programs for over 30 years, and is currently in need of men and women age 18 and up to become volunteer mentors to meet the increasing needs in several areas of the community.

Through the Mentoring Youth Program, caring men and women provide guidance, friendship and support to abused and neglected children ages 5 to 18. There are a number of youth waiting to be matched with someone with whom they can develop a positive relationship. There is an especially great need for male mentors and bi-lingual, Spanish speaking mentors of both sexes. Winter training starts January 27th.

Mentoring Moms are women who make a difference in the lives of isolated and overwhelmed mothers of all ages. The volunteers spend time with mothers who have experienced difficulty in coping with parenting, managing households, providing for their children or other obstacles. The mentors listen, share ideas and offer encouragement, so that the mothers can improve their lives and that of their children. Bi-lingual Spanish speaking women are also needed to become mentors for this program as well. Training begins February 1st.

Free three or four-week training sessions are provided to mentors in both programs. During this time, the volunteers take workshops on developing listening skills,

Communication and problem solving. Guest speakers such as current mentors or mentees share their experiences so that new mentors have the background and knowledge to help support their mentees. All mentors undergo a comprehensive screening process which includes fingerprinting and other background checks.

Mentoring Youth training begins Wednesday, January 27. Mentoring Moms begins training on Monday, February 1. All trainings are held at the Volunteer Center, 64 Passaic Street in Hackensack, from 7:00 pm to 9:30pm. Both trainings will also be held again in spring 2016.

Lynne Algrant, CEO of the Volunteer Center, says, “To be a mentor, you don’t need any special skills—just an ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement to a child or an adult. And you’ll be amazed by how much you’ll get out of the experience. Be someone who matters to someone who matters. So, share what you know. Become a mentor because Mentoring Works!”

The Bergen Volunteer Center strengthens the community by connecting people through service and developing civic leaders.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

WANTED: Heroes for Kids

Local boys and girls are looking for heroes.

Children have been referred to the Bergen Volunteer Center’s Mentoring Youth program, which, for more than 30 years, has trained and supervised adult volunteers to serve as mentors to children, age 5 to 18. Youth are confronted with adverse challenges, at home and in life, and are experiencing social, emotional and behavioral problems. Mentors serve as positive role models; provide guidance, friendship and support; and advocate on behalf of children when necessary.

The next 3-week Mentoring Youth training program begins on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Sessions run on consecutive Wednesday evenings, and trainees must attend all sessions for successful completion of the training. The training will run from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, 64 Passaic Street in Hackensack.

“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 Lynne Algrant, 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, Director of the Mentoring Youth Program. “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.”

Mentors show children a different perspective, expose them to unexplored opportunities and help them to build trust. According to a study by Big Brothers/Big Sisters, youth who regularly meet with a mentor are 52% less likely than peers to skip school and 46% less likely to use drugs. Additionally, they are 33% less likely to hit someone or to start drinking. By sharing fun activities and exposing a youth to new experiences, mentors encourage positive choices, promote high self-esteem, support academic achievement and introduce young people to new ideas.

Mentoring Youth volunteer training is provided at no charge and covers such topics as the benefits of mentoring for volunteers and children; child and adolescent development; understanding child maltreatment; effective listening and communication skills; building rapport and developing strong mentoring relationships; the role of the mentor; and the matching and closure process. Applicants are required to undergo a comprehensive background check and must obtain written letters recommendation as part of the training course.

For more information about the Mentoring Youth program, please contact Eva Tobias at (201) 489-9454 x-209 or visit the Mentoring Youth page onllne.