Friday, February 19, 2021

Bergen Volunteers: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program 2021

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is in full swing at Bergen Volunteers.


The Bergen Volunteers VITA program offers free basic tax return preparation services to qualified individuals, including:

  • Individuals whose income levels are $57,000 or less

  • Individuals with disabilities

  • English-language learners

The program is designed by the IRS, independently managed by Bergen Volunteers as an IRS-certified partner, and supported by volunteers. Each year, Bergen Volunteers’s VITA volunteers undergo a rigorous training and confidentiality workshop. Volunteers are required to certify their knowledge of the tax laws. They also perform a quality review check prior to filing for every return that is prepared. 


Due to the current pandemic, Bergen Volunteers is utilizing a hybrid system with regulated in-person document drop-offs and scheduled virtual sessions.

“Bergen Volunteers is working diligently to deliver the VITA program in a socially-distant and responsible manner,” said Program Manager, Debbie Emery. “We reevaluated our approach and developed a program that would continue to serve individuals while maintaining everyone’s health and safety.”


Upcoming virtual tax preparation dates are:

  • February 27

  • March 6

  • March 13

  • Mach 20

  • Mach 27

  • April 10

To determine eligibility for services, potential tax clients should contact Debbie Emery at demery@bergenvolunteers.org or 201-489-9454 x202 to coordinate an appointment.  More information can be found on our website, www.bergenvolunteers.org/programs.


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Volunteering in Retirement: Where do I begin?



What are your plans as you enter retirement? 
How will you continue to stay sharp and utilize the years of experience you’ve acquired?


Nonprofit agencies are in need now more than ever. Budgetary constraints and an increase in service demands leads to many gaps needing to be filled.

How can we fill those gaps and help promote a culture of civic engagement, social welfare, and leadership?

Volunteerism! Offering your unique set of skills after retirement is an invaluable asset to any nonprofit.

But how do you find your perfect match?

You may not know where to begin - but we do!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Bergen Volunteers Unveils Expanded Mentoring Program

Bergen Volunteers, the longtime hub for community connection building, revealed its newly re-envisioned Mentoring Program, to coincide with January’s National Mentoring Month. After 40 years in partnership with the State of NJ, Bergen Volunteers received the news that, due to COVID-19 budget cuts, all state funding to the Mentoring Program was eliminated. 

 “The changes in funding provided us with the opportunity to redefine and reimagine mentoring. Over the last 40 years we matched 4,700 individuals with mentors and we did not want budgetary cuts to restrict the impact we have serving the community,” said Nina Bachrach, CEO of Bergen Volunteers. “We moved quickly to pivot our approach to ensure that we could continue running our Mentoring Program throughout the pandemic and into the future.”

 With support from our Mentoring Task Force we developed a new program and framework. The goal continues to be to match individuals in need of support caring mentors who offer assistance, guidance, and education. The program helps individuals learn about the resources available within the community, while tapping into their strengths to identify and work on individualized goals. 

The program is open to walk-ins as well as referrals from partnering agencies, who feel a client could benefit from mentoring. Bergen Volunteers is particularly focused on outreach to individuals from marginalized and minority communities as well as low-to-moderate income households to give them the opportunity to connect with a caring and supportive mentor. The program is currently in need of black and brown male mentors to be matched with mentees in the program. 

 “We know that by providing friendship, guidance, and support, mentors can help strengthen relationships and encourage healthy family functioning,” Bachrach said. “Mentors serve as a bridge to guide individuals across systems, city agencies, and organizations, to ensure they are accessing the resources to meet their needs, achieve their goals, and become self-advocates.” 

 The new Mentoring Program focuses on a two-fold approach, involving a year-long model with the option to renew and a month-to-month model. The year-long option is open to youth and adolescents ages 8 - 18+, caregivers (parents, guardians, grandparents, foster parents, people caring for senior parents, etc.), and first generation college students. Goals, which are set individually by each match, can range from improving financial literacy to experiencing the local arts to strengthening family connections, or can be customized based on individual needs.

The month-to-month program is open to high school students and up as well as senior citizens. The goals for this program are to provide check-ins and conversation for those struggling with isolation. A new component of this program area is the launch of the Seniors-to-Seniors subgroup, in which Seniors in high school can check-in on senior citizens. There are a variety of ways in which to participate in the program - as a mentor, mentee, or supporter. There are also options for businesses and nonprofits to become involved and benefit from the program. 

“We are thrilled to be able to offer support via our new Mentoring Program and encourage our community to get involved in this important and critical program,” Bachrach concluded. 

Individuals need mentoring now more than ever especially with COVID-19 related isolationism. If you are interested in being matched with a mentor, or volunteering with the Mentoring Program, please reach out to Lisa Tredici at ltredici@bergenvolunteers.org or visit www.bergenvolunteers.org/programs.




Monday, December 14, 2020

Bergen Volunteers: All Wrapped Up 2020

Bergen Volunteers’ All Wrapped Up program is spreading holiday cheer to over 2,000 individuals (and counting) this holiday season. Nearly 500 individuals have generously donated gifts to those in need, such as supermarket gift cards, clothing, toys, and coats. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Meet Areli: Through Mentoring she found her extended family

 

Areli knew she was in trouble.
Areli immigrated from El Salvador to the United States in 2004 with her family. Her husband was battling cancer and she struggled to communicate with his doctors, her children’s teachers, and maintain financial stability. Areli knew she was in trouble.
With only a basic knowledge of English and limited education, Areli had minimal job prospects. Areli felt lost as she tried to lead her family through food insecurity and sickness. Then an ad in the local newspaper about a mentorship program gave her a glimmer of hope. 
Areli reached out to Bergen Volunteers and was quickly paired with her mentor, Alma. They formed an instant connection.

A fellow native Spanish speaker, with the same love of thrift stores and movies, Alma was able to offer guidance, support, and companionship.
Alma (left) and Areli (right) at a Mentoring party.
Alma became Areli’s translator and gave Areli practical financial guidance. She even helped Areli secure a job and dig herself out of financial instability.

It is through programs like Mentoring that Bergen Volunteers can help facilitate connections between people; reminding us that two people, a world apart, can support one another and become an extended family.
Your gift to Bergen Volunteers will ensure that our mentoring staff can continue to provide support for those in our community in need of help.

Any donation large or small makes all the difference towards changing someone’s life.

Heidi lost her home, but she did not lose her spirit.

 

After serving two tours in the Navy Heidi was left struggling with back pain and an array of medical issues. Her medical bills drained her of her entire life savings, leaving her homeless.
Through the Bergen County Division of Veteran Services, a partner of Bergen Volunteers, Heidi secured a new apartment. Upon moving in, Heidi was connected with our Making-It-Home program to help furnish her home.  

We visited Heidi in her new apartment to learn more about her and what type of furniture she needed.
“A desk for my computer,” she exclaimed, “because I just love the Internet and want to go on Match.com. Who knows, I may find myself a fella! And oh, a recliner would be terrific too. I have trouble walking and my back isn’t in very good shape, so that would help. Frankly, anything you might provide would be a blessing.”

Making-It-Home located a desk and recliner from a donor in the community and brought it to Heidi’s home.
Heidi said, “I never thought I'd be the one asking for or needing help at this stage of my life. But I feel so entirely grateful to realize it is out there. And to refreshingly find it is given so willingly and freely. Thank you again for doing what you do. You have made a huge positive difference in my life!
Thanks to donors like you, Making-It-Home can continue to provide furniture to our veterans and ensure they are well taken care of.

Your $100 donation will help veterans in our community have the furniture they need to make their house a home.

“I was at the weakest point in my life before Bergen Volunteers”

 

As a single mother of four, Tracy often felt alone and broken.
Tracy was admittedly at the weakest point in her life. It was not until she was introduced to Bergen Volunteers and met her mentor Rita that Tracy felt a true connection for the first time in years.

Tracy and Rita’s goals included helping Tracy become self-sufficient, earn her college degree, improve her parenting skills, and become a community leader.
Tracy is now a college graduate actively applying for her Master’s Degree and is an alumni of Bergen LEADS, a year-long civic leadership training program delivered by Bergen Volunteers.
Tracy considers Rita a part of her family. She noted that through Rita’s mentorship she has become a better mother and person.
Tracy is grateful that the Mentoring program provided her with a much needed and consistent support system. In the future Tracy would like to become a mentor and help other mothers who are struggling. 
Tracy believes, “All you need is one person to offer love and a helping hand to make a difference.” She is glad to have Rita as her helping hand.
There are thousands of mothers in Bergen County in the same predicament as was Tracy. We need your help to make an impact on their lives as well.

With a $100 donation to Bergen Volunteers you can help our mentoring team match other individuals with a caring mentor to offer support and guidance.