Monday, October 16, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Steve!

Steve Kaplowitz has been a member of the Thursday Chore Van #1 crew for 5 years.  Prior to retiring, he worked in IT for 35 years, and he was a consultant to large companies setting up HR, Payroll and Benefits Systems. 

 Volunteering is a way of life for Steve; in addition to Chore, he delivers meals for Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels, he visits at-home clients and delivers holiday meals for the Jewish Home in Rockleigh, and he is on the Board of the Warriors’ Run, Inc., a charity motorcycle ride benefiting veterans’ organizations.  When he has some free time, he enjoys fishing and winter skiing, bicycling, and is forming a motorcycle riding club with friends. “We visited a shut-in client who spent her days looking out her window at goings-on outside.  Her roll-down window shade stuck in the down position and she could not raise it.  She could not enjoy doing what she loved.  I removed the roller, rolled it up, reinstalled it, and it worked perfectly.  From that one minute’s work, I saw the joy restored in her face.  I find my time with Chore as an enjoyable day spending time with the friends I have made on the crew; hearing stories from our clients, and giving back to people who need our help, as thanks for my and my family’s blessings.”

Support Chore and the many other programs at the Bergen Volunteer Center at our Annual Hearts of Gold Gala on Thursday, November 9 at the Stony Hill Inn. Visit to learn more.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Paul!

Prior to joining Chore’s Monday Van #1 crew 12 years ago, Paul Siegel was a civil/industrial engineer.  He also volunteers on the Architectural Control Committee of his Homeowners’ Association.  In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his grandchildren, fishing, playing cards and ‘tinkering’ around the house.  “I take great pleasure in helping others, and when they thank us profusely, it gives me a true sense of ‘worth’.  Volunteering with Chore also gives me an opportunity to wake up at an ungodly hour, as though I were back in the rat race!”

Support Chore and the many other programs at the Bergen Volunteer Center at our Annual Hearts of Gold Gala on Thursday, November 9 at the Stony Hill Inn. Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Teen LEADS comes to the Applied Technology High School

The Bergen Volunteer Center is excited to announce our launch of the newest TeenLEADS program, Applied Technology High School (ATHS) TeenLEADS.  This high school program, located on the Paramus Campus of Bergen Community College, provides students a unique educational experience through a blend of academic high school curriculum, college classes, and hands-on technical training. With a curriculum that is centered on “smart machines,” students will learn to apply math, science, and technology to hands-on projects in the fields of automation, electronics, and advanced manufacturing. Through this program, students will learn essential skills needed to pursue a career in a wide variety of areas including engineering technology. This training will be coupled with the dual enrollment coursework needed to allow students to earn advanced standing into several technical associates programs at the college, including an A.A.S. program in General Engineering Technology. Associates degrees earned at Bergen Community College are transferable to all four-year public colleges and universities in New Jersey. 
“ATHS TeenLEADS will give our students an opportunity to explore their community and civic engagement as an exciting addition to their academic programs.  The students that are participating in this school year-long exploration have chosen to do so as a club,” stated teacher and program advisor Gebhardt Zurburg. Debbie Emery, Director of Community and Youth Engagement for the Bergen Volunteer Center added, “This is going to be a terrific opportunity for students to look at Bergen County- based issues, including law and public safety, environment, healthcare, and government.”

Teen LEADS is a leadership program for high school students to learn about local government and public policy. Students analyze community issues and develop new approaches to problem solving. The program is designed to get students excited about public policy and how their community is governed. At the completion of the program, students will have developed the tools needed to affect change in their community and transform lives.  To find out more about this program, contact Debbie Emery at or 201-489-9454, x202.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Mike, Dennis, & Andy!

According to a 2014 Bergen County Health Assessment, 1 in 3 households has at least one adult over the age of 65. Some of these people move into nursing homes or managed care facilities, as mobility and overall health begin to decline,  but as people are living longer and healthier lives, they’re opting to stay in their homes longer,--a process referred to as Aging in Place.  A survey by AARP found that 90 percent of seniors want to remain in their own homes.  By providing minor enhancements like grab bars or interior railings, Chore helps residents continue to live in their beloved homes safely.

Mike Conlon, Dennis Beezley, and Andy McDonough are the Friday, Chore Van #3 crew

Mr. M writes:  “Once more you have come to my rescue.  Thanks to the grab bars you installed, I am now able to visit parts of my home that I have not seen in over 5 years!  Many thanks to the crew for making this possible.”

Support Chore and the many other programs at the Bergen Volunteer Center at our Annual Hearts of Gold Gala on Thursday, November 9 at the Stony Hill Inn. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Help Hurricane Victims with MedShare

Dear Friends and Volunteers of MedShare,

Like all of you, we’ve watched events in Texas, Florida & Puerto Rico unfold with a heavy heart and a desire to help our fellow citizens. Flooding has displaced thousands and many communities have been entirely cut off by flood waters. Clinics in the area have been cut off from supplies and support. Many hospitals have been evacuated while others are relying on backup systems. Clinics around the state have been inundated with a higher volume of patients as people leave the Houston region for safety. 

MedShare is asking for your support.  We are partnering with the Texas Diaper Bank to help families care for their loved ones, and are collecting basic care items to ship to Houston area medical organizations.  Below is a list of needed items that can be brought to the MedShare warehouse in Secaucus, NJ. 

·        Diapers sizes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
·        Adult diapers for senior citizens (sizes M/L and L/XL)
·        Pull-ups sizes 2T-3T, 3T-4T,  and 4T-5T
·        Wipes

We are also collecting personal hygiene items:

·        Hand Sanitizer
·        Soap
·        Shampoo
·        Toothpaste
·        Toothbrushes
·        Infant Formula (Powdered only)
·        Dressings
·        Bandages

MedShare will collect, warehouse and deliver all donated items to our partners on the ground.  So that we do not create an additional burden on first responders, we will ship all of the collected supplies based on the needs of our partner organizations. 

MedShare is also closely monitoring Hurricane Irma as it approaches Florida, and will be ready to collect items for the people of that state should they need our support. 

Items can be delivered or shipped to MedShare (701 Penhorn Avenue, Unit #3, Secaucus, NJ 07094).  Drop off hours are Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 4:00pm, and Saturdays from 9:00am – 12:00pm.

To learn more about MedShare’s current disaster response relief efforts, please click  

If you have any questions, please email Jason Montagna,  We are grateful for your ongoing support!    

Monday, September 25, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Ed L.!

Prior to joining Chore and the Friday, Van #2 crew about  1 ½ years ago, Ed Leone was in the graphic arts business—publishing, printing and distributing trade, higher ed and college text books-- for almost 40 years.  He enjoys golf and working with his hands.  He also volunteers in his town’s Community Band, playing the trumpet, after a hiatus from playing for almost 36 years.  He says he needs a little work, but is looking forward to successfully re-mastering this instrument again this summer!  “In the short time I have been with Chore, I find it is a valuable resource for seniors and disabled persons, to be able to have repairs done, that they no longer can do themselves.  It leaves me with a good feeling that I was able to help our clients make their lives a little better.”

Support Chore and the many other programs at the Bergen Volunteer Center at our Annual Hearts of Gold Gala on Thursday, November 9 at the Stony Hill Inn. Visit to learn more.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Bob, John, Lee & Elliott!

Although our name:  ChoreVolunteer Handyman Service is not an acronym, a recent client made this suggestion as to what  “Chore” stands for:  Caring Handypersons Offering Repairs for the Elderly.  What do you think?  Anyone have any other ideas?

Bob Nafash, John Tercek, Lee McQuaid and Elliott Wolk make up the Friday, Chore Van #1 crew.

Mrs. A writes: “Truck Number 1 (John, Elliott, Lee and Bob) are a blessing.  They understand what kind of repairs are important to me.  They were prepared and very helpful.  Chore Service is a gift.”

Support Chore and the many other programs at the Bergen Volunteer Center at our Annual Hearts of Gold Gala on Thursday, November 9 at the Stony Hill Inn. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Mike, Pete, Tim & Tom!

The volunteers at Chore perform minor home repairs that seniors and disabled homeowners can neither do themselves, nor find anyone else to do so.  Having our clients live safely and comfortably in their own homes has always been our goal.

Mike Schear, Pete Tilgner, Tim Africano and Tom Van Hook are the Wednesday, Chore Van #2 crew.

Mrs. M writes: “I am elated that I can finally use my garden hose without looking like I just came out of the shower! Water was squirting all over the place and ME, until your crew readjusted the hose connection.  The gentlemen who came to assist me were knowledgeable and so polite.  God bless them.  I know it was just a hose, but to me—it was like getting a diamond ring!

Support Chore and the many other programs at the Bergen Volunteer Center at our Annual Hearts of Gold Gala on Thursday, November 9 at the Stony Hill Inn. Visit to learn more.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Mike C!

Mike Conlon has been a part of the Friday, Chore van #3 crew for the past 5 years.  Before retiring, he was a heating and air-conditioning engineer with the New York Board of Education.  In his spare time, likes to play golf and enjoy his 19 grandchildren!  “I enjoy meeting all the clients and being able to help them.  I also enjoy interacting with the other Chore volunteers.  This is a valuable service for senior citizens and disabled persons.”

Support Chore and the many other programs at the Bergen Volunteer Center at our Annual Hearts of Gold Gala on Thursday, November 9 at the Stony Hill Inn. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Helping to Destigmatize Recovery from Addiction

The New Jersey Recovery Advocates will be holding their annual event at Liberty State Park on Saturday September 16, 2017 with a walk at 10 am and a concert at noon.

The event will feature bands, food trucks, vendors and speeches surrounding the reality of recovery.

NJ Recovery Advocates is a  grassroots organization that hopes to eliminate the isolation, shame, stigma and discrimination associated with addiction.

Heroin addiction is a growing epidemic, permeating every county. Addiction to opiates, alcohol and other substances are threatening our families, schools, and communities. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding this deadly disease often prevents individuals from seeking the treatment they so desperately need.

Amongst our entertainment, NJRA will feature a salsa band to better attract the marginalized Hispanic community who have been isolated by cultural and language barriers. The festival is free and open to the public.

With the New York City skyline as a backdrop and, most fitting, the Statue of Liberty standing tall and strong, this event will celebrate freedom from addiction. Join New Jersey as they form together to remove the barriers who seek healthy and productive lives in recovery.

The @BCVolunteers and @BergenLEADS are proud to support and promote the work of New Jersey Recovery Advocates. Let's all work together to support those in recovery stay healthy and strong!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Mentoring Moms Takeover the Parision Beauty Academy for Back to School Makeovers!

Areli and her children from the Mentoring Moms program show off their new stylish haircuts after their appointment at Parisian Beauty Academy. 

Every summer for the past 8 years the Parisian Beauty Academy, a Paul Mitchell Partner School in Hackensack, has invited the Mentoring Moms families to their salon for a private event.  This annual event is a family favorite for mothers who often struggle to make ends meet and can’t afford routine haircuts in a professional salon. The cosmetology students, instructors and staff at Parisian offer free haircuts so that every mom and child who attends the event leaves the salon with a clean haircut, a smile on their face and ready for back to school.

Thank you to the staff of Parisian Beauty Academy for your continued effort to help others in the community.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Andy!

Andy McDonough has been with Chore for 8 months, as part of the Friday, Van #3 crew.  He worked right out of college for a large construction company in Pennsylvania as a carpenter framing houses.  For most of his career, he was a university professor teaching human anatomy and related subjects to physical therapy students at New York University. In addition to being an adjunct professor at over a dozen schools in the New York-Metro area, he also taught in Taiwan and Russia.  He enjoys woodworking and is a semi-professional photographer.  He also volunteers with Meals on Wheels. “Volunteering with Chore provides me with a chance to help people in the community and spare them some of the expense of hiring carpenters, plumbers and electricians.”

Support Chore and the many other programs at the Bergen Volunteer Center at our Annual Hearts of Gold Gala on Thursday, November 9 at the Stony Hill Inn. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey and Volunteerism

I think we are all thinking about Hurricane Harvey and the people of southeastern Texas.  And of course, we want to know what we can do to help.  I met recently with Jocelyn Gilman and Muraad Abussalaam of the NJ Red Cross and they offered lots of great information that I am happy to pass along.
Ten month old Astro Arriaga sleeps in a Red Cross Shelter in Victoria, Texas.
Photo by Daniel Cima for The American Red Cross – August 26, 2017
The most important thing to know in the wake of a natural disaster is that cash donations are actually the best way to help. Money can be used to get local supplies and to give direct aid to victims.  While we often think about sending supplies, we need to recognize that things are hard to transport over long distances and hard to store.  With so much of southeastern Texas flooded, any in-kind donations are being routed to Dallas--3 and 1/2 hours away.

When making a donation, be sure that you have chosen a reputable nonprofit.  The NJ Division of Consumer Affairs warns us to avoid "charities" that have Hurricane Harvey in their names, as they might be scams.

You can donate blood locally and it will help supplies nationwide, which will help Harvey victims. There are other good suggestions for ways to help in this article.

Finally, another way to not feel so helpless in the wake of so much suffering is to get involved locally. Start by making sure you and your family are prepared for a man-made or natural disaster.  The Red Cross has a new free app (available at the iTunes App Store and Google Play) that provides incredible information and functions.

Perhaps you want to be trained as a Red Cross or CERT team volunteer, so that you can be ready if and when you are needed.

Jocelyn and Muraad reminded me that each year, most of the time the Red Cross is responding to house fires. Fire prevention, fire safety and smoke detectors are things we can take care of immediately.  By taking care of ourselves and our neighbors, we insure that the resources needed in Texas can get there.

Stay safe. Stay involved. #bergengivesback #bcvolunteers


Monday, August 28, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Lowell, Bill, Ed and Carlos!

New Jersey Magazine honored Chore through its “Seeds of Hope” award, recognizing charitable organizations and residents of the Garden State.  Additionally, Chore was chosen out of several hundred applicants to be featured in a WABC-TV special, Volunteers Across America, which was aired on ABC affiliates throughout the country.  Chore has also been featured on numerous TV and radio newscasts, in stories on talk shows and in print media in the Northern New Jersey area.

Lowell Patton, Bill Nugent, Ed Leon and Carlos Arizaga are the Friday, Chore Van #2 crew.

Mr. and Mrs. S write: “Thank you for your excellent and prompt service.  This was our first experience with Chore and it was First Class—all the way!  Skillful and professional phone gal in the office and skillful and efficient “techies” on the van! 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Mike!

Mike Silverstein has been a Chore volunteer for three years, and is part of the Monday, Chore Van #1 crew.  Prior to his 35 years as a full time college professor, he was employed by manufacturing and consulting firms as an industrial engineer.  After retiring from full time teaching in 1997, he taught part time until 2014. He recently became chairperson of the MS Swim-In Board, and is a member of both the senior housing and transportation committees in Teaneck. He enjoys woodworking and has created over 100 wine cork-corkboards for friends and family.  He was a competitive bullseye shooter and competitive small bore rifle shooter for many years.  “I enjoy working with my mind and hands, and also enjoy the camaraderie of working with people my own age, helping individuals who are less fortunate financially or physically than I.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Rob, John, Tom & Steve!

The Chore Program and its volunteers have been featured in an article about giving back to the community in an issue of ‘This Old House’ Magazine.  Chore is a recipient of the prestigious NJ Governor’s Award for Service to Senior Citizens.  Chore was named a Daily Point of Light by the Points of Light Foundation, the Corporation of Community Service and the Knights of Columbus for its remarkable record of community service and exemplary volunteerism. 

Rob Rossi, John Tercek, Tom Veit and Steve Kaplowitz are the members of the Thursday, Chore Van #1 crew.

Mrs. O writes:  “I commend you on such excellent help for us seniors, so in need.  The Chore crew worked so hard at my home for an extended time to put air conditioners in for me and my disabled son.  I am 83 years old and living on a limited income.  We never could afford outside help.  I cannot thank you enough for these very special men you sent!  We seniors are so lucky for this organization and I hope everyone is as grateful as I am for all of you.”

Monday, August 7, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Joe C!

Joe Cutolo has been with Chore since 2009, and he works on two crews each week—the Monday Chore Van #3 and Tuesday, Chore Van #2.  Prior to joining Chore, he worked in the oil industry for 40 years and operated oil tankers world-wide.  When he is not volunteering for Chore, he spends much time as Commander of American Legion Post 21 in Cresskill, supporting veterans and the community.    In his spare time, he enjoys making wooden model sailing ships and gardening.  “I have been fortunate in my lifetime and enjoy helping those who can use a helping hand.  I derive a great sense of satisfaction.  It is a reminder that my problems are insignificant compared to those of some clients we visit.  I have made some good friendships with the Monday and Tuesday crews, and we have shared many different repair techniques and skills.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Bergen County's Hidden Therapeutic Gem - by Elma

One of the greatest advantages of getting the opportunity to work at the Bergen Volunteer Center is the ability to visit the many institutions in Bergen County - many of which I had not known about before.

One such institution was the New Alliance Academy. Just a few weeks shy of summer vacation, Debbie Emery had invited me to go along with her and Eric Fuchs-Stengel to New Alliance Academy. Pulling up to the school, taking in its beige building hooded by its green canopy, I thought nothing of it. I thought nothing of it because I was not familiar with the institution.

But, when I stepped inside I was overwhelmed by its significance.

New Alliance Academy is a high school for teenagers experiencing acute psychological distress. In addition to meeting the student's’ educational needs, the Academy also provides continuum of care which provides the students with emotional and therapeutic services. 

As I walked through their halls, I witnessed the impact of New Alliance Academy. The classrooms were lined with bookshelves containing everything from classic literature to political commentary books. The walls were covered with the artwork from the students and their well written papers.

I also had the opportunity to talk with the teachers. The investment and care which they showed for their students was remarkable. They, including the principal, knew each student at a personal level.

Their care for the students allowed them to see the need to engage them in community service. The three of us were there to discuss the importance of becoming involved in the community. Volunteerism encourages unity, leadership, confidence, discipline, and commitment. These are skills that are important for all students to possess, regardless of the type of school they attend.

Although I was there to inform the faculty of New Alliance Academy about the significance of community service, I came away, that day, learning more about Bergen County.

Our county has hidden gems. For me, the New Alliance Academy was a gem that I had the privilege of uncovering.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Message From Our CEO

Dog Days of Summer

Growing up, my father was a college administrator. Now married to a high school principal, August has continued to be that quiet before the storm, that period of reflection before the rush of the fall semester.  August through Labor Day has always been the run up to the "new year" for me and a time for resolutions and plans. 

So what are nonprofits doing in August?  Most are planning for a VERY busy September through December.  And all are thinking about how to engage volunteers in their important work.  

Here at the Bergen Volunteer Center we are: 

--Actively recruiting volunteers for our programs--Chore handypersons, and mentors for moms and teen agers;

--Making-It-Home is gearing up to furnish the new Veterans apartments in Emerson in September;

--Opening days for Bergen LEADS, Teen LEADS and College LEADS are being finalized;

--Office hours for our Redefining Retirement "matchmakers" are being scheduled;

-- And we are planning the Fall Volunteer Fair to be held on September 12th at the Paramus Park Mall.

So in the dog days of summer, the quiet before that first school bell rings, as you curl up with the last stack of beach novels and magazine articles, we hope you will also think about volunteering this fall.  And remember two things:

"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."
--Elizabeth Andrew 


"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. . . . You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Enjoy the Dog Days of Summer,

Monday, July 31, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Harvey!

Harvey Rappaport  retired from CBS Broadcasting, where he worked for News, Sports and Entertainment divisions in his early career, and just prior to retiring, was VP Operations at CBS’s international division.  He found out about Chore from reading an article in his local newspaper.  He felt it would be a good match, as he considers himself handy and is always up for a challenge.  He also dog walks for START II, a small private animal shelter in Englewood.  In his spare time he enjoys traveling, going to the theater and caring for his 5 rescue cats.  

He and his crew members in the Tuesday Chore van #1 have completed many safety repairs such as grab bars, smoke detectors and hand railings to make the home safer, but they have also completed some repairs for seniors who are overwhelmed by technology, such as setting up a simple medical alert system.  “The elderly have a need to be kept safe as they stay in their homes.  They are susceptible to unscrupulous people, and we at Chore can be very helpful to them.  There’s nothing better than when we receive a big ‘Thank You and God Bless’ when we leave a home better than when we found it.” 

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Why I Love Bergen County by Elma
I have lived in Bergen County for the past 12 years and there was not a single day when it did not feel like home.

Home is synonymous with comfort, belonging and community. In Bergen County, there is a deep-seated feeling of community. Uncompromisable relationships develop between neighbors, between peers, between YMCA staff and members and even between people you see regularly at the grocery store.

I had first sensed the pulse of our community when I moved to Hackensack from Poughkeepsie. My mom had to pick me up from Fairmount Elementary School by foot because our car had broken down. My brother was cooing in his stroller and I hopped along, a carefree preschooler. Suddenly, the sky cackled and the dark clouds opened up to torrential rain.

Without an umbrella we were forced to keep trudging along in this monsoon. Wet and shivering, we made it to the end of the block, still ten daunting minutes away from home. We were stopped in our tracks by a seaweed green truck whose tinted windows rolled down to reveal a familiar face - our crossing guard. Every day we saw her going to school and coming from school. And there she was, willing to go out of her way to take us home.

That is the heart of Bergen County - a feeling of community that persists through thick and thin.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

14,000th Ride and Counting!

ITNNorthJersey is training their 90th volunteer driver this week. The Independent Transportation Network of North Jersey is making great strides in just over 2 years. They started with 3 volunteers driving 2 rider members, now they are set to give their 14,000th ride in Bergen County.

ITNNorthJersey is a community based transportation service for seniors and adults with visual impairment. They help dozens of members get to all kinds of appointments including: kidney dialysis, jobs, errands, routine medical and even the hairdresser.

Dora from Franklin Lakes is a recent widow who now relies on ITNNorthJersey for her weekly trips to the hairdresser and grocery store shopping. Dora says these trips allow her to stay in the home she loves while being able to safely continue her usual routine.

Like Dora, the consistent feedback from members is overwhelmingly positive. For many of them it's not just about getting around with ease, it's also about doing so with dignity. And for the volunteer drivers, they say it's a rewarding way to spend their time.

If you're interested in learning more about ITNNorthJersey, contact Mary Lyons-Kim at either 201-398-3885 or

Monday, July 24, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Ed L.!

Prior to joining Chore about 1 ½ years ago, Ed Lipiner worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta, where he conducted field assessments and reviewed environmental impacts of federally funded projects.  He also worked with the Passaic County Planning Department as a principal Transportation Planner, where he conducted planning studies encompassing all modes of transportation, as well as managed programs providing transport services for disadvantaged populations in the County.  

In addition to his time with Chore, he continues volunteering in support of the environment by participating in EcovillageNJ, a meetup group collaborating on housing projects based on environmental and cooperative principals,  and GreenFaith, a local group of religious congregations that sponsor events to promote environmental sustainability. He enjoys hiking and travel, and has developed his own website/blog about Urban Affairs.   “Through my association with Chore, I have gained an appreciation of the challenges and potential solutions facing seniors and disabled people who wish to remain in their homes.  Chore means people connecting with and helping other people in need—a foundation for an ethical and humane society.”


Monday, July 17, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Rich!

Rich Heslin is another of our newer volunteers-- he joined Chore about 9 months ago after retiring from a long career with the Port Authority of NY/NJ, which included management responsibilities for PATH’s structural, mechanical and track/third-rail systems. He also served as general manager at both Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport.  

In addition to Chore, Rich volunteers with Traveler’s Aid at Newark Airport, where he helps visitors find their way, and provides them with information and assistance as they journey.  He enjoys cycling in his spare time.  “My wife suggested I volunteer with Chore, because after I retired, I wanted to give back to the community and help out where it was truly needed.  Chore absolutely provides that opportunity.  And as I am sure you know, while we do make a difference to those who request our services, the feeling you get for helping others makes it all worthwhile.”

Thursday, July 13, 2017



Right now, I can put my hair up in a ponytail, braids or even a bun. But 2 years ago, I couldn’t do any of that. I couldn’t even part my hair.

Two years ago I shaved my head, completely! I looked like a brown egg that had sprouted a body. Keep reading, the reason I did this will become clear. But first, I want to take you along the journey.

I remember the day I went to the salon. My mother was nervous, as a mother should be. She was worried that I would be bullied, that I would become a social outcast. But I knew this was something I had to do.

Just as my mother was worried, the barber was confused. The man had wet my hair and was ready to snip away with small shears.

“How short do you want it, miss?”

“I want to shave my head”.

He stopped and stared at me, the shears suspended in bewilderment. The man then rested two fingers just above my ear lobe.

“Up to here?”

At that moment I remembered my grandmother, my great aunts and my aunt.

When I was five, my youngest great aunt died of breast cancer, at home, surrounded by her own things.

I remember when the doctors took my grandmother off of life support because lung cancer had eaten her away; I was six.

When I was eight, my oldest great aunt passed away of stomach cancer. I remember the call at midnight.

And I do not remember my aunt at all. Years before I was born, she passed away. She was 32 and a victim of Leukemia.

Weeks before my haircut, I had read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta had died of cervical cancer. Her daughter, Deborah, almost drove herself crazy because of those tumors. She was afraid of inheritance. I am too.

Then I remember the commercials for St. Jude’s. They are just kids yet they are fighting battles that my family had lost. I see them smiling on screen, tubes up their nose and arms, bald head, but still they have hope.

In fourth grade, I read a book by Patricia Polacco titled The Lemonade Club. In the book, a fifth grader, Marilyn, had leukemia, and so she started to lose her hair. I had seen the same thing happen to my family. In support and to help her through her difficult treatment, Marilyn’s entire class shaved their heads too. Support, it is the least I could do.

I thought of all this and I shook my head no.

“I want it completely off, like bald off”, I asserted.

The man chuckled and began braiding my hair. Then, snip, snip, snip. It was like a weight had been lifted off of me.

He handed the dismembered braid to my mother, who cradled it like a newborn child.

The man used shears to cut away all the remnant hair, the scraps that could not be mailed off to Locks of Love. When he could not cut any further, he buzzed all my hair off.

It is often difficult to explain to people why I did it. How do I explain to them the pain of losing my family? The pain of watching children suffer a ruthless disease? The pain of not being able to do anything about it?

I will never regret my decision to shave my head and donate my hair to a non-profit like Locks of Love, because hopefully I helped a child regain a sense of self confidence.

Monday, July 10, 2017

BVC Can Help Parents Apply for College Financial Aid

Did you know that students are now able to submit FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application starting October 1st? And did you know that your chances of receiving a favorable financial aid package is higher the earlier you apply?

As we all know, college is expensive. The most important component of your financial aid application is the FAFSA and submitting it, as early as possible, maximizes the amount of federal aid you receive. Every little bit counts.

Since the application process is online, and filing for FAFSA is such an integral part of the college financial aid package, it can often be intimidating to those who are new to the college process.

Sharon Genicoff, Guidance Counselor at Bergen County Technical School:
“Some states award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so eligible families who file soon after Oct 1 have a better chance of receiving aid, including grants, work-study and federal loans. You should file the FAFSA even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for need-based aid. If you want to take out a federal loan of any type—including the unsubsidized Stafford Loan, which isn’t based on financial need—then you’ll need to file the FAFSA. Also, some institutions require students to complete the FAFSA in order to be eligible for merit-based awards. Some students and families may have difficulty completing the FAFSA because of misconceptions, including thinking there is a fee. The FAFSA is free and families should never be charged for completing the application. Also, some students may not complete the FAFSA because their parents are not U.S. citizens. The citizenship of their parents has no bearing on aid eligibility and the FAFSA will not ask parents whether they are citizens. The form will ask for their Social Security numbers, though. If a student’s parents do not have this information, they can simply enter all zeros as a placeholder. Lastly, if families do not have access to the internet, there is a printable version available.”

We are here to help! Last year, the Bergen Volunteer Center launched the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This year, through an extension of the VITA program, volunteers are offering to help students and families understand and complete the FAFSA application. The FAFSA Help Sessions will be held between October 14th through October 28th. Specific locations and times are still being confirmed, so if you are interested in the Help Sessions or know anyone who might be interested, please contact For further information regarding FAFSA, you can also visit

We are also looking for volunteers for the FAFSA event who can help families and students to fill out the FAFSA forms. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact

Keep an eye out on our website ( or our FaceBook ( for any updates regarding the FAFSA Help Sessions.

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Ruth!

Ruth Connolly has been helping out in the Chore office for the past 14 years, making reminder calls, mailing out thank you notes for donations, and many other administrative tasks.  Prior to joining Chore, she was an Executive Secretary at various corporate and non-profit organizations in the area.  In fact, she continues to work in a local construction company as their office manager when she is not at Chore.  

Other volunteer activities include visiting a nursing home patient weekly and shopping for him and clipping coupons which she sends monthly to active military personnel.  “Chore is a very worthwhile program that helps people have things done that they cannot do for themselves.  Volunteering with Chore gives me great personal satisfaction by helping others, while doing the kind of work with which I am comfortable.  It affords me a social atmosphere to work with people who treat me like family.  By the way, I am also a recipient of Chore services at my own home.”

Thursday, July 6, 2017


(This week Bergen Volunteer Center begins a new blog series: What's On My Mind! For the next few weeks, this blog will be written by our volunteer student intern, Elma. A resident of Bergen County and a future doctor, Elma will be blogging about things that matter to her and the Bergen County community.)


I was born in Bangladesh, a South Asian country known for its' diverse culture. I came to the United States when I was 4 years old. Unlike the U.S., Bangladesh is also known for being one of the poorest countries in the world. The streets of Bangladesh bustle with poverty. Children weave through traffic half naked, maimed men drag themselves on the roads, and women cradle their babies on one hip and a tin bowl on the other hip - they all ask for money. Those images haunt me.

I go to Bangladesh every other year. And every other year I see the same thing. But when I return to the U.S., I find refuge from those images. In Bergen County, I do not see the sunken eyes of hungry children. I do not see their protruding ribs. I do not see their tiny hands banging on car windows asking for money. I do not see those things in Bergen County, so poverty does not exist here.

During my junior year of high school, I learned the truth.

Debbie Emery came to speak at my school, Bergen County Technical High-school, as a representative of the Bergen Volunteer Center. One of the things she said that stuck with me was about the poor in Bergen County. As ignorant as it may seem, I had never known there to be any poverty in Bergen County. Certainly, I had not seen any.

To me, poverty translated to the conditions I saw in Bangladesh. However, the evil of poverty is that it exists in many forms. In Bergen County, it exists as homelessness, hunger and lack of healthcare.

Although these seem moderate compared to the situation in Bangladesh or any third-world country, any level of poverty must be acknowledged.

My county’s perceived affluence obscures individuals who truly need help. This is why I wanted to get involved in community driven non-profits. Through volunteerism and community initiatives, the Bergen Volunteer Center makes my county a better home for the less fortunate.

Now that I know poverty exists in Bergen County, and I know the extremes that poverty can ultimately lead to, I want to protect my community.