CHEER is Bergen Volunteer Center’s newest program and is funded by a grant from the Bergen County Department of Human Services as well as from community corporations, private foundations, and individual donors.
CHEER provides a helping hand to isolated and frail seniors of Bergen County which allows 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.
CHEER has had the privilege of partnering with a number of Schools for those with Autism in Bergen County. These partnerships have been beneficial not only to our clients (the seniors) but also to the students. The students practice skills that, when integrated, increase their ability to live independent lives while being effective contributing members of society. These student volunteers may be at different points on the Autistic Spectrum but the over- arching goal of this partnership for the students is progress towards independence, productivity, integration and self-sufficiency.
Samantha M., a student at Alpine Learning Group Inc. has been a CHEER volunteer for the last two years. Her behavior specialist has reported that during that time Samantha has made progress and improved her skill set in many areas and is now able to :
- Navigate the aisles in a supermarket independently
- Identify and select items from a given list
- Categorize and arrange fragile/non fragile items
- Engage clients in conversation
- Establish a routine with her clients
This is a win-win situation because not only are the client’s needs met but Samantha’s social and communication skills are improving and she is also able to transfer skills from one client/situation to the next. As stated by Cortney Debiase, teacher/behavior specialist of ALG Inc., “ She ( Samantha) has built a wonderful relationship with her client and upon entering the home, they both light up and greet each other. It has been a wonderful pairing and Samantha looks forward to going shopping and seeing her clients”.
The CHEER program continues to provide on-going opportunities for the students to learn and/or continue to develop valuable new skills. To get more information about the CHEER program, contact Michele Ogden at 201-489-9454 x 203 and /or firstname.lastname@example.org.