Friday, October 30, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

The holidays are fast approaching, and the Volunteer Center's annual All Wrapped Up holiday giving program is in full swing! We've been gathering information since August about people in need and determining their holiday "wish list" requests. On Monday, November 2, we'll begin matching requests with volunteer donors from the community who are willing to fulfill these wishes, bringing some holiday cheer to those who need it the most. In many cases, the requests are for very basic items, such as winter coats, warm sweaters, slippers, etc. or books or toys for children, which may be the only gifts they receive. Gift cards for supermarkets and discount department stores are on everyone's list, too.

Individuals, families, civic groups, corporations and business associations are encouraged to "adopt" an individual or a family in need. Click here for detailed information, including a simple form that you can complete and submit online. Soon after, you will be contacted with information about the individual or family you have "adopted" for the holidays. You can also call us at 201-489-9454, ext. 118 (Debbie Emery).

Times are tough, so please do whatever you can to help our neighbor’s right here in Bergen County have a happier holiday!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Service Learning - where community and education intersect

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County is sponsoring the 3rd Annual Service Learning Conference on Friday, November 13, at Bergen Community College (BCC). Service-learning is a method of teaching and learning that combines academic work with service to the community. Students learn by doing, through a clear application of skills and knowledge, while helping to meet needs in the school and community. A national study of Learn and Serve America programs suggests that effective service learning programs improve grades, increase attendance in school and develop students’ personal and social responsibility.

School administrators, teachers, service advisors, leaders of community and faith-based organizations and students are encouraged to attend. The conference will run from 8:30 am - 12 noon in the TEC Center at BCC. Please click here to view the event brochure. For information, contact Debbie Emery at 201-489-9454, ext. 118 or

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Power of Volunteers

The Volunteer Center's executive Director, Janet Sharma, was recently honored by the Urban League Guild for Bergen County. Following are her remarks presented at the awards luncheon:

Thank you very much for this award. I am truly honored. I have
always appreciated the Urban League and its commitment to community, and I deeply value your good work – across the country and here in Englewood.

I’ve got to tell you that I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure as Executive Director of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County and one of the reasons is that I get to work in partnership with the Urban League and with the other organizations that are being honored here today.

My organization focuses on the power of volunteers to make the world a better place. I have always believed that volunteering is a key component of social justice, because volunteering brings people together.

When I was little, I got my first volunteer experience helping my mother distribute
materials for the Cancer Society. Remember those 7 danger signs? Well I lived with those materials so long that I was sure that I had them all. The cough that
wouldn’t stop, sore that wouldn’t heal, the mole that kept getting bigger.

That experience has lived with me all these years and I think it’s important, because a key feature of volunteering is empathy. I really believed that I was dying, and I know how scared I was. That hasn’t left me, nor has the sense of empathy, of sensing
what others are feeling. Not only the pain of the sick or the despair of the homeless, but the gladness in the eyes of a lonely senior when someone brings them a meal or gives them a friendly call, or the pride that someone – a child or an adult – feels when a volunteer helps them grasp the concept of reading; or the thrill when a mentor takes a child to the zoo and they see an elephant up close and personal for the very first time; or the fervor of someone who stands up for the underdog -- or for their own rights -- and extends their passion to others.

These are the kinds of things that make up my day, and every single day brings joy as well as heartache because every day is full of the full range of humanity.

At a recent forum with President George H.W. Bush (#41), President Obama commented on the importance of service, and I want to pass along his words:

"Service isn't separate from our national priorities or secondary to our national priorities - it's integral to achieving our national priorities. It's how we will meet the challenges of our time...

That's always been the story of this nation--the story of those who stepped forward in our darkest hours to serve it. Those who rose to answer the defining questions of their time: Colony or country? Free or half free? Separate but equal, or truly equal?

Those folks weren't in it for the money. Those folks were volunteers. Their
service wasn't "extra." It was the work that changed this country."

Thank you very much for this award. I am honored to be among you today.

The 411 on Managing Leadership Volunteers

Volunteers often fill valuable leadership positions in non-profit agencies, such as board members, committee chairs and project managers. These volunteers could have the responsibility of making policy, organizing major fund raisers, and steering the organization to fulfill its mission.

Effectively managing these skilled volunteers is a critical skill for non-profit executive directors and senior staff. To learn best practices in this fine art, the Volunteer Center is presenting a workshop on Managing Leadership Volunteers, on Wednesday, November 4, at 9:30 am. For more information on this course and others click here.

Pre-registration and pre-payment of the $35.00 fee for Managing Leadership Volunteers is required; the deadline for registration is October 30th. For more information or to register, e-mail, or call (201) 489-9454, ext.114.

Friday, October 23, 2009

VC Programs Link with Seniors

Our RSVP and Chore programs were on hand when the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce sponsored its first-ever Senior Adult Health Fair on October 13 at the Ridgewood Y. Co-sponsored by Van Dyk Manor, Valley Hospital, and Distinctive Care, the event was attended by more than 100 seniors who received valuable information about healthcare and heard presentations about Medicare, home health care and home safety.

Representatives of RSVP and Chore provided information and answered questions about our services, which include placement of volunteers in meaningful positions (RSVP) and engaging volunteer handymen/handywomen to provide minor home repairs for the elderly or disabled (Chore).

Healthy snacks and drinks were provided courtesy of Kings Super Market of Ridgewood. Special thanks to Kevin Brendlen of Van Dyk Manor for generously sponsoring our table at the event!

Photo slide show,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Disaster can strike anytime…Be prepared

The Alumni of Bergen LEADS (ABL) are hosting a one-night Disaster Preparedness seminar for Bergen County residents that will be presented by Bergen County’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

Disasters can strike at any time, and it is in everyone's best interest to be prepared. Detective Gidget Petry, Bergen County OEM ‘s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordinator, will discuss how people can prepare for disasters before they occur. She will also discuss how residents can become part of the nationwide CERT program by attending additional training courses offered throughout Bergen County.

“Local officials and relief workers may not be able to get to everyone immediately after a disaster strikes,” says Mary Swatek Hudson, graduate of the Bergen LEADS Class of 2009 and vice-chair of ABL. “Residents may initially be on their own; they will need to know how to help themselves and their neighbors effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.”

The Disaster Preparedness Seminar will be held on Tuesday, October 27, 2009, from 7 pm to 9 pm at the Northern New Jersey Girl Scout offices, 300 Forest Avenue, in Paramus. The program is open to the public (age 12 and up) at no charge, but pre-registration is required. E-mail by October 23rd to reserve a space.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Major Broadcast Networks Mobilize to Promote Volunteerism

The four major broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC—will air an unprecedented week of television October 19-25, as part of the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s (EIF) “iParticipate”, a national initiative to promote community service and volunteering. Storylines in more than 60 shows will feature volunteerism.

EIF is mobilizing the entire entertainment community to promote a new way of thinking about service and seeks to persuade millions more of Americans to volunteer regularly.

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County is the local source for connecting people with meaningful opportunities to serve. For more information please visit or call 201-489-9454 for information on volunteering.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kids Enjoy Zoo Trip

Kids being mentored through the Volunteer Center's Volunteers in Protective Services (VIPS) program recently enjoyed a fabulous trip to the Bronx Zoo. Funds to support this day-long adventure were generated by Quest Diagnostics annual "Rutts Hutt Hot Dog Challenge," in which Quest employees vied for the championship and in the process raised funds to send the kids to the zoo. More than 50 mentors and mentees explored the vase Bronx Zoo, enjoying lions, tigers, gorillas, elephants and many more.

“The day was truly magical,” said Eva Tobias, an assistant with the VIPS program. "Children laughed at the animals, made new friendships, and reunited with others. The weather even held out until everyone was back on the bus heading home."

VIPS helps youth who have suffered abuse or neglect see and take steps to achieve a brighter future. "The trip to the zoo is an inspiring testament to the hard work and generosity that a local company -- Quest Diasgnostics -- provided by supporting these kids," says Janet Sharma, Volunteer Center executive director. "We are very grateful!"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Get on Board

Agencies of all kinds -- including those that deal with youth or women’s issues, the arts, emergency services, senior services, and environmental concerns -- need board members. Board members make a difference in the community and share their talents and skills to address important social needs.

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County invites you to take part in a unique leadership experience to learn about serving as a board member in a nonprofit agency. The Getting On Board workshop will help participants understand what is involved in serving on an organization’s Board of Directors. The 2-hour primer on board service will be held on Wednesday, October 21, at 7:00 pm.

The cost for the Getting On Board training is $10.00 per person and includes the training presentation, handouts, and refreshments. Class size is limited so register now! Pre-registration and pre-payment are required; registration deadline is October 16, 2009. For more information or to register, send an e-mail to or call Tess Tomasi at (201) 489-9454 x 114.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Riders Rally in the Rain!

The weather for the Bergen Bike Tour on Sunday, September 27th was less than perfect, but hundreds of enthusiastic and determined riders, volunteers, sponsors and guests made the rainy day seem positively sunny! More than 150 riders braved the mist and rain, then relaxed post-ride with family and friends in the warmth of a huge, rustic lodge at Darlington Park. Students from the Healing Hands Institute massaged cyclists' aching muscles, DJ Scott Reddin got the party going with great music and games, and volunteer cooks served up a fabulous barbeque of hamburgers, hot dogs and all the fixings.

Major sponsors TD Bank, Ford Motor Company and additional corporate sponsors generously provided giveaways and information. Riders have until November 13th to continue fundraising, with proceeds benefiting Tomorrows Children's Fund and the Volunteer Center of Bergen County. Many thanks to all who rode, volunteered, sponsored and cheered - and hope to see you next year!