Thursday, June 30, 2022


Posting this blog so close to the 4th of July may have you thinking this post is about Independence Day, but it is actually about something else - personal independence, the ability to live independently.

The first part of our lives we are completely dependent on the adults in our lives, be it parents, grandparents, or some other adult caretaker. We are unable to feed ourselves, clean ourselves, protect ourselves, shelter ourselves, basically we are vulnerable to everything. As time passes, we grow, we learn, we develop the skills needed to take care of ourselves. As teenagers we push for independence, we long for the day when we can be on our own, make our own rules, choose our own destinies. That day comes, and we head out into the world, on our personal path - career, family, travel, and all the adult responsibilities we spent our teenage years pining for. As adults, some of us live the lives we imagined we would, some of us strive everyday to achieve that goal life, and some of us resign ourselves to the life we ended up with. For most of us we are able to feed ourselves, shelter ourselves, keep ourselves healthy, transport ourselves, and earn money. As we do this, day in and day out, we take for granted our ability to live independently. Years go by, we get older, we get wiser, yet we don’t always see the possibilities that lie ahead.

As we move into the latter part of our lives we may end up somewhere we never expected - alone, isolated, with a diminished capacity to live independently. Our faculties may betray us, causing us to no longer be able to transport ourselves. This means no trips to the grocery store, no running out to the library, and no meeting friends for lunch. What seemed like a simple household task, like changing a light bulb, may now be a dangerous endeavor if climbing onto a chair is involved. If we have adult children, they may have moved away. Our network of support may be shrinking. The more isolated we are, the more at risk we are for depression, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues. We want our independence. We want to stay in the house we made a home. We want to feel comfortable and in control. The reality though is that without support, tough decisions will need to be made. This may mean moving into a senior housing facility, assisted living community, or nursing home - places we never thought we would end up.

Studies show that on average, older adults who stay home, as opposed to moving into a nursing home, live 3.4 years longer. While there are many factors at play, it should not be overlooked that state of mind plays a part in our health. Losing our independence can have negative effects on our mental health. For some, based on health conditions, an assisted living community or nursing home may be the only option. However, others might just need help at home.

We want to be independent, but we don’t want to be alone. The reality is life bookends itself with dependency, with the difference being, at the start of the book there are more people who want to help us. So how do we maintain independence? How do we age in place? First, we have to take an honest look at our situation, current health conditions, and what assistance we need. Then we need to find the appropriate resources that will allow us to age in place. Programs like Bergen Volunteers’ CHEER, CHORE, and Mentoring assist older adults with errands, minor home repairs, and combating isolation. Of course, each person’s situation is different. For some, an assisted living facility may be the safest option, but for those who can stay home, there are resources available.

Letting go of our independence may be one of the hardest things we do in life. Being able to hang on to it for just a little longer, even in a lesser capacity, can make a big difference in our lives.

For more information on Bergen Volunteers Senior Programs visit:


Thursday, December 9, 2021

A Story of Youth Volunteerism

What impact can you make during a worldwide pandemic?  Let us tell you about two very productive youth, who went above and beyond.  Emma (17), and David Wiser (20), both from Paramus, have been very busy during the time of COVID-19 in trying to clean up our local rivers, hiking trails, and streets.  Having caught the trash clean-up bug from the Hackensack Riverkeeper volunteer organization, they have logged over 130 hours of volunteering in the last 12 months.  In addition to paddling on a canoe and kayaks to clean up the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, Emma and David have also performed over 50 miles of hiking along our neighborhood roads, parks, and trails to remove the trash buildup.  Mostly they are finding plastic bottles, masks, and gloves, but they are also finding crazy things that have been thrown away so there’s a competitive game as to who finds the weirdest stuff on each trek.  In 2021 alone, they youth have removed a total of 548 shopping bags of garbage!

Being stuck in the house and attending school remotely was extremely hard for both youth.  David is attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) as an Aerospace Engineer, and Emma is a senior in Paramus High School, who is currently applying to West Point Military Academy (among other schools).  Emma volunteers in a number of organizations such as the H.O.P.E. (Helping Our Planet Earth) club and Boy Scouts of America as a Venturing Crew 1204 scout.  She hopes to take her passion about the environment to study Environmental Sciences as a career. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Give a Call

Hello, is that you?

In an age filled with communication consisting of texts, emails, IM, snaps, and tweets, has the art of a real live interactive telephone conversation gone to the wayside? The answer is, “No, not for everyone.”

Depending on your age, you may have seen and used a rotary phone, where noisily dialing  (just) seven numbers could take a whole 15 seconds. These phones are now a novelty – a fun retro item you can buy on Amazon for about $70. As times have changed, society learned how to use a push button phone, followed by a cordless phone. Imagine the freedom of walking and talking without a cord! It was so liberating. “I’m talking to you from my basement!” We heard telephone carriers brag about fiber optics, a cutting edge technology used to transmit information through fibers made of glass over long distances. Now we use “cell” phones which are called cell phones because the network they connect to is a system of cells, each cell defined by a tower. More impressive than that, is the fact that the cells are connected to the network via communication with satellites. We can now use our cell phones just about anywhere - on planes, trains, and in automobiles. But with all this flexibility, statistics repeatedly show that people prefer to text rather than speak. According to research done by, the number of monthly texts sent has increased by more than 7,700% over the last decade.

There is no denying the fact that sending a text is a great way to convey a quick, short message; perhaps a daily check-in for a friend or relative. Maybe a new driver lets his parents know he has arrived at his destination by sending a text. Or maybe a teenager meets her favorite celebrity and wants to let all of her friends know in a group text. While there are hundreds of emojis to add to a text, there isn’t one for every single situation, emotion, or feeling. How many times have you received a text containing a variety of typos - so much so, that you don’t understand the message? Or maybe you didn’t finish reading a text because you got distracted and forgot to go back to it? Your conversation remains unfinished. In some cases, the absence of a comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence. There are definite inefficiencies with texting that would not happen with a phone call. 

Calling to talk to someone on the phone is intimate and transparent with a beginning and an end, hence the ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’, phrases not necessarily used in texts. When you are on a phone call, you have to be engaged. You can’t just put the phone down and take a break from the conversation. You get to hear someone’s tone, voice fluctuation, or laugh. Hearing someone laugh is way better than looking at 20 laughing emojis. You could imagine the laugh, but why imagine it when you can hear it? When you are given the opportunity, consider making the call. You never know where the conversation may go.  You could be changing the entire outlook of someone’s day! 

At Bergen Volunteers, the act of making phone calls is thriving. We have volunteers who sign up to do just that - call homebound senior citizens on a weekly basis. The seniors are thrilled to receive the call and know that someone cares. There is no structured format to the call, no list of questions to read through. Just two friends chatting about whatever they want. In some cases, the voice of the volunteer is the only one the senior is hearing all week. With the restrictions of the last eighteen months, there are so many seniors who feel isolated and lonely. 

Would you consider making one phone call a week to lift the spirits of a senior? 

To learn more contact Lisa Trediciat 201.221.4706 or

Monday, October 25, 2021

How do we inspire kids to give back?

We all have hopes for the future adults our children will become. We hope they will be successful, we hope they will be happy, and we hope they will make a positive impact on the world around them. We have schools and teachers to educate them, prepare them for a career in the world. We have family and friends to spend time with, to laugh with, and to show them what happiness is. That leaves making a positive impact. Yes, this may go hand in hand with the career they choose, but what if it doesn’t. What can they do, and how can we teach them the impact of being charitable. 

First and foremost, we inspire children through the example we set. A child who grows up in a charitable home, who takes part in volunteering or donating, will learn what it means to give back. It is important in these situations to always share the “why” with children. It is great to have them go through the motions of volunteering; however, it makes even more of an impression if they understand why they are volunteering. That lasting impression will be the reason they carry on the tradition of being charitable.

One of our volunteers reached out with a story about her son. For years she has been instilling in him the importance of giving back. She has done this by including him in volunteer opportunities, and explaining to him why she chooses to participate. One of the first opportunities she actively included him in was an environmental clean-up. He was five years old at the time. By the end of the day he was explaining to others the importance of keeping plastic out of the waterways, and why you shouldn’t litter. Five years later, and many more clean-ups under his belt, his conversation about taking care of the environment has become more detailed and compelling. At the age of eight he started helping shovel snow from the driveways and walkways of seniors in his neighborhood. While delighted to receive the occasional batch of fresh baked cookies in return, he was not doing this with the expectation of any kind of reward. Rather, he was doing this with an understanding that sometimes people need help, sometimes they are unable to do certain things, and for their safety and well-being, it is important to lend a helping hand. More recently, with the rise of food insecurities, he has been helping with meal deliveries and distributions, carrying boxes in and out of drop points, and running individual meals up to the homes of seniors in his community. Having these opportunities to volunteer, and to understand the importance of his actions, has left a lasting impression. He now jumps at the opportunity to help someone in need.

Giving back looks different for each family. Some families donate items, some give financially, and others donate their time. Many families, in anticipation of the holidays, have their children select some of their toys donate. Others will hand their children money to drop in a collection bin. Those who choose to donate their time do so in a variety of ways, as detailed in the story above. All of these ways of giving are important; all of them make a positive impact.

Children are also inspired by what they read and what they watch. Books like “The Giving Tree” and “When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars” contain powerful messages about giving, and appreciation. Movies like “The Lorax” and “Up” for younger children, and “Pay It Forward” for older children, teach valuable lessons about giving and caring. A follow up discussion on the books and movies will leave even more of an impression. Let the children tell you what they thought about the story, what they thought was important, how the characters made a positive impact on the world around them, and why that matters.

It seems appropriate to close with the words of Graham Nash, “Teach your children well.”  We are raising future adults. What we do, what we show them, will have a direct effect on who they will become. This November, in honor of GivingTuesday, what can you do to inspire your children to give back? 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Teens - The Leaders of Tomorrow

When thinking about the importance of leadership in teens, perhaps the best place to get input is from a teen. Fortunately for us, we have a couple of amazing interns here at Bergen Volunteers, and one of them gave us his thoughts on the topic.

Leadership is a necessity in today’s world. It is a leader’s job to inspire and to turn ideas into reality. With the ever changing world around us, new leaders are needed more than ever. Teenagers can be the answer to this need. Teaching them the skills necessary to succeed in leadership roles will help the community and the world around us.

Teenagers can greatly impact their community by volunteering and getting involved in events around their town. By participating in these events, teenagers experience and learn about the leadership needed in today’s world. Teenagers are the future of the world and they need to be able to step up to the challenges facing them. By learning about leadership, teenagers can start to organize their own events, whether it is fundraising or spreading awareness for a cause they believe in. This promotes growth in their community and inspires others to do the same. 

Leadership is also needed in everyday life. Teenagers are on the brink of adulthood, and that means they will be on their own in the world. At that point in their life it is important to be able to lead themselves into the direction they want to take with their life. By learning about what it takes to be a leader, it helps teenagers transition into being adults because they will be able to make the necessary decisions that will be presented to them when no one else is there to direct them.

Teenagers are the leaders of tomorrow.  The leaders that are in charge today won’t be in charge forever and the world will need to be able to trust their position with people that can fulfill the duties that need to be done. For a teenager, getting the experience early on helps them be more prepared for when they need to take the role of a leader. Teenagers bring with them new perspectives. The world changes constantly and the teenagers who have grown up in the new world are better suited for the problems that it presents.

Overall, leadership is a large part in teenagers’ lives whether it is in their community, for themselves, or for the future. Teenagers are still learning about the world around them and it is important that they learn about leadership to help make that world a better place.

At Bergen Volunteers, we recognize that teens are the leaders of tomorrow. We want to prepare them with the knowledge and skills that will set them up for success. That is why we run the Teen LEADS program for high school students. Participants in Teen LEADS learn about local government and public policy. They analyze community issues and develop new approaches to problem solving. The program is designed to get participants involved in their community to become effective community leaders.

If you would like more information on bringing Teen LEADS to your school, contact Jodi Murphy at


Tuesday, September 7, 2021


What makes a place a home?  A house, a condo, an apartment, all of these can be homes.  What is it that switches a place from just being a structure with walls, floors, windows, doors, and a roof, to being a place with an emotional attachment to it?

Home is where people should feel safe, comfortable.  It is a place for dinner around the table, a place for a restful night’s sleep, a place to keep the things that are important to us, a place for families to create memories.  Homes become customized to those living in them.  The favorite spot on the sofa, the placement of items in and on a dresser, the tables so many memories are created around, all contribute to the comfort of, and attachment to, our homes.  

Bergen Volunteers’ Making-It-Home program turns structures into homes by providing the furniture that fills a room with warmth and comfort.  Over the past year and a half there has been an influx in the purchase of new furniture, leaving many with gently-used furniture to donate.  Making-It-Home has been a grateful beneficiary of this interesting phenomenon. Gently-used furniture from residents in Bergen County has been collected and delivered, free of charge, to individuals and families who are leaving emergency shelters and moving to unfurnished apartments. Clients include veterans, survivors of domestic violence and their children, seniors, people with disabilities, and other homeless, low-income residents. Making-It-Home has enabled them to live in a safe and comfortable environment, improving their quality of life and ability to achieve greater self-sufficiency. 

Most donors are motivated by a desire to give to those less fortunate than themselves, and to keep their once beloved items out of landfills.  Their generous donations include all the pieces needed to furnish the apartments of 200 clients each year. In an average year, Making-It-Home volunteers spend 1,600 hours collecting nearly 800 pieces of furniture from 150 residents, keeping approximately 42,000 pounds of unwanted items out of our landfills.    

To learn more about this unique program, visit

Friday, August 6, 2021

We Live to Give

She ripped open the wrapping paper to find the stuffed pink pony she had wanted for the last three Christmases. That stuffed pink pony stayed in her arms for the rest of the day, and she had trouble letting go of our hugs when our time together was over. But the joy she got from receiving that stuffed pink pony was nothing compared to the joy we all felt for making this little girl so happy.

All of us here at Bergen Volunteers love the time of year when we bring presents to our mentees during our holiday party. Seeing the smile appear on another’s face when we give a gift, provide a service, or do anything in their best interests will undoubtedly reflect back on us. Giving to others makes us happy, far more than receiving things for ourselves does.

In 2018, psychology researchers Samantha Kassirer from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and Ed O'Brien of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business conducted two studies which concluded that the subjects’ happiness declined much less if they continuously offered gifts to others rather than receiving the same gifts themselves.

One of the studies provided 96 college students with $5 each day for five days. They were required to spend it on the same thing either for themselves or another (like a charity donation or contribution to a tip jar), and they would reflect on how they spent their money and how happy they felt following each day. Evidently, self-reported levels of happiness reduced daily in those who spent on themselves, whereas those who spent on someone else were consistently happy over the five days.

We all enjoy being selfless; we naturally start to feel guilty or selfish when we don’t give to others. Sometimes we need to take a step back from our lives to be able to understand how we can help those who have less to be grateful for. This pandemic has certainly made us more aware of how daily tasks and interactions can be taken for granted, and now we see more and more acts of kindness every day. Anything from holding a door for someone to donating half your paycheck to charity can bring cheer to your day. 

We have an easy way for you to give and join in the feelings of happiness: donor-advised funds. When you donate through a donor-advised fund to a public charity, there are many positive tax ramifications. Those funds can often be invested to grow your donation tax-free, or, if you are required to take a Required Minimum Distribution, Bergen Volunteers can be the recipient, with tax benefits for you. By donating to us through a donor-advised fund, you can reap the positive emotional benefits similar to those in Kassirer and O’Brien’s studies. You give a gift and get a gift: we’d call that a win-win.

You can find out more about donor-advised funds at this link, and if you’d like to put yours towards Bergen Volunteers, please contact your financial planner or Bergen Volunteers CEO Nina Bachrach at or 201.489.9454 x201 for more information.

At Bergen Volunteers, our job is to bring joy to our community, whether that’s through our programs and services, friendly conversations, or even giving out boxes of lightbulbs. And we ask you to give back to us so you can get even more happiness out of each day.

Ratner, Paul. "Why Giving Gifts Brings You More Happiness than Receiving Them."

     Big Think, 25 Dec. 2018,

     why-its-better-to-give-gifts-than-to-receive-according-to-science. Accessed

     3 Aug. 2021.

"What Is a Donor-Advised Fund?" Fidelity Charitable, Fidelity Investments

     Charitable Gift Fund,

what-is-a-donor-advised-fund.html?immid=PCD&engine=GOOGLE&campaign=Donor+Advised+Primer&adgroup=Donor+Advised&keyword=Donor+Advised+funds&gclid=Cj0KCQjw3f6HBhDHARIsAD_i3D91sAbP9rocN4fgNRiFz8viZLnR90_l_FjZ9dmlR1LQXkM3Fpk5-hAaAiMGEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.