Monday, February 23, 2015

Bring the Joy of Reading to a Child

Studies show that reading to a child, especially early learners, is the single most important thing a parent can do to help the child acquire language, develop a love of learning and prepare for school - leading to greater academic success.

Often, children in low-income families lack access to books. These families are struggling to pay for rent, utilities and food, so books are far down on the list of must-have items.

To address this need, The Volunteer Center of Bergen County’s Business Volunteer Council, has kicked off its annual Books in a Bag campaign. The goal of the program is to collect 5,000 NEW books between January 21st and March 2nd. The books will be distributed to children enrolled in Mentoring Youth and Mentoring Moms, which are programs of the Volunteer Center that provide mentors to children and families in need. Books suitable for ages preschool through high school level are needed.

The campaign will culminate on Read Across America Day on March 2nd, which also commemorates Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel’s March birthday. On that day, the collected books will be delivered to the children by dozens of corporate volunteers, who will also stay to read to the younger children.

Companies or individuals are invited to bring the joy of reading to a child. Books in a Bag is an onsite volunteer project perfect for companies of any size. Participating companies will receive a toolkit with detailed instructions on successfully implementing the program. For more information, contact Erica West, Director of Corporate Engagement, at or call 201-489-9454, x133.

Individuals may purchase books online by going to Those books will be shipped to the Volunteer Center, then assembled in backpacks and delivered to children. The deadline for ordering books is February 13th.

“Since 2000, 75,000 books have been distributed to 15,000 children in low-income families through Books in a Bag”, says Erica West, Director of Corporate Engagement at the Volunteer Center. “Getting involved in this initiative is a great way for a company to do good work in the community. As Dr. Seuss said, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bergen LEADS Class of 2016

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County is now accepting Applications for the Bergen LEADS Class of 2016!
What is Bergen LEADS?
  • 10-month learning and leadership program for adults 
    • Meets on the First Tuesday of every month, September 2014-June 2015
  • Monthly day-long seminars on topics of critical and topical importance
  • Classroom learning from experts and sector leaders
  • Field trips and site visits to see leadership in action
  • Leadership assessments and executive coaching
  • Positive Leadership curriculum
  • A network of 160 Bergen LEADS alumni
  • A program of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, headquartered in Hackensack
"Bergen LEADS is the best adult "me time" that I can think of!"
- Bruce Silberman, CL14
What's in it for you?
  • Meet leaders and decision makers
  • Dissect issues, debate viewpoints and develop approaches to community problems.
  • Discover and develop your leadership skills
  • Learn to build and lead great teams
  • Join a growing network of LEADers from every sector
  • Discover your passion
  • Get engaged in the dynamic community that is Bergen County
"You don't have time NOT to join Bergen LEADS.
You will meet people, learn ideas and enrich your life - guaranteed!"
- Mary Lyons Kim, CL14
How to apply?


Friday, February 13, 2015

A Night of Comedy to support the Volunteer Center

A Comedy Night event to benefit the Volunteer Center of Bergen County will be held on Saturday, March 14, at Banana’s Comedy Club, 283 Rt. 17 South, Hasbrouck Heights.  Doors open at 6:30 pm for the 7:30 show; tickets are $35.00 per person with one drink or food purchase minimum. Tickets can be purchased online here.
Alonzo Bodden, winner of season three of “Last Comic Standing” will be headlining.  He has performed on The Tonight Show, The Late Late Show and The Best Damned Sports Show. Bodden’s one-hour comedy special on Showtime, “Who’s Paying Attention” received rave reviews and he can be heard on his riotous radio program, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!”. The Volunteer Center’s Comedy Night is a great chance to catch a rising comedic star while supporting a local charity.
Funds raised at this event will support the work of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County; its important work includes the following activities:
  • Two Mentoring Programs are helping more than 80 abused or neglected children and over 50 overwhelmed mothers see and take steps to achieve a brighter future.
  • The Chore Service is keeping more than 1,900 seniors safe in their own homes.
  • Bergen LEADS, with monthly seminars led by former County Executive William “Pat” Schuber, is developing a new generation of community leaders trained in issues of critical importance to Bergen County.
  • The Bergen County VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) is helping to coordinate efforts locally for future disasters.
The stories of the volunteers and programs of the Volunteer Center are ones of commitment, caring, selfless giving and doing good in Bergen County. “The Volunteer Center plays a key role in helping Bergen County residents respond to needs in our community,” says Janet Sharma, the Volunteer Center’s Chief Executive Officer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BVC Serves more than 200 at annual Project Homeless Connect

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”       
           - Maya Angelou

On the frigid morning of February 4th, 2015, hundreds of local homeless were huddled outside the entryway of the Bergen County Housing and Human Services building in Hackensack, awaiting a hot breakfast at the 9th Annual Project Homeless Connect. The annual event assists and links people experiencing homelessness with access to health services, legal advice, social services and employment assistance. More than 150 of these events are held in over 115 cities across the nation.

The Business Volunteer Council has been participating in Project Homeless Connect since 2011, coordinating volunteers to prepare and serve breakfast to people in need. This year's event was sponsored by Business Volunteer Council partners, Five Star Premier Residences of Teaneck, Community Bank of Bergen County, Sealed Air and supported by volunteers from Hudson City Savings Bank. 

Five Star Premier Residences of Teaneck generously prepared and donated the breakfast served to an estimated 200 displaced individuals. “We’ve been doing this as a staff for the past five years”, says Marc Sturiale, Director of Human Resources. “It’s great to be able to help in some small way. We want to give back in honor of our employees.” The entire community is affected by homelessness and it is up to the entire community to help end it by finding real solutions to this complex problem.

The entire community is affected by homelessness and the Business Volunteer Council understands the importance of finding real solutions to this complex problem. “As a company, we are always looking to help in our community," says Volunteer Carole Feeney of Community Bank, "and the Business Volunteer Council helps us to do that.”

The Volunteer Center’s Business Volunteer Council gives businesses a platform to successfully engage employees through volunteer service and workplace giving. Members receive customized volunteer projects, including skills-based volunteering and support for corporate social responsibility initiatives. The BVC makes doing good a good part of doing business by building high-impact employee led-programs that are locally significant and socially relevant. We believe companies with the right engagement tools and guidance can create incredible social change, while having a fun, memorable team building experience!

For more information, contact Erica West, Director of Corporate Engagement, at or call 201-489-9454, x133 or visit


Monday, February 9, 2015

How do you Celebrate Volunteers?

Volunteers are at the heart of any community. To honor them and bring recognition to the work that they do, the Volunteer Center of Bergen County will salute volunteers from all parts of the county at its annual Celebrate Volunteers event on Thursday, April 2 at Bergen Community College’s Moses Meeting and Training Center, TEC 128, 400 Paramus Road in Paramus. Beginning with a 6:00 pm dessert reception, the evening will feature an inspiring program highlighting the many extraordinary ways in which volunteers enhance the community.  A special presentation will made by the teens from the Volunteer Center’s Ready, Set, Serve Leadership Initiative, highlighting their civic engagement during 2014-2015. 

Public and private non-profit organizations, hospitals, libraries, religious organizations, schools and corporations in Bergen County are invited to bring volunteers they would like to honor, along with staff, to this non-competitive, community-wide event. Every volunteer will receive special gifts and certificates of commendation. 

Each organization can choose to honor its top volunteers based on its own criteria for determining exemplary volunteer achievement, such as impact, dedication, hours served and loyalty. Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis, and are due March 20, 2015.  The cost is $10.00 per person.  Call (201) 489-9454 ext. 118 to reserve tickets or for more information.  Seating is limited.

“This event is a great way for organizations to honor their volunteers,” explains Janet Sharma, the Volunteer Center’s Chief Executive Officer. “Hundreds of volunteers will be commended for their dedication, time and talent, and, at the same time, agencies save themselves the expense of hosting a separate event.”

Dassault Falcon Jet is a sponsor of Celebrate Volunteers. Additional sponsorships are available. For information, contact Lauren Turiello, Director of Development, at (201) 489-9454, Ext. 130. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Blame it on Bergen LEADS - Marlene Ceragno

I heard about LEADS when I took a non-profit leadership course at Bergen Community College where I luckily met Lynne and Amanda -  now my mentors and hopefully lifelong friends. Could I actually get picked to be in LEADS? The answer was yes! My passion about my Adult Care Brief Bank and caring about seniors and their needs are part of the reasons why I got into LEADS.

Bergen LEADS is truly a once in a lifetime experience. First I was able to learn so much about our county that I never knew, nor would have had the opportunity to know. Let's face it, who gets to go to the top of the George Washington bridge, or in my case, almost to the top? I got to meet like minded and community minded people who almost instantly created an environment of trust and inclusiveness. It truly was a  privilege to experience this program together with a diverse, caring, intelligent group of classmates. Such an honor to be in attendance with my co-leaders as we learned, and shared together.
Working on a sensitive project close to my heart, it opened the floodgates for sharing life experiences with each other and ultimately with the community; hoping that by sharing our own stories, it may help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

I felt and still feel great support from my mentors and alums who are always there to guide me, who come to hear me testify at a senior needs hearing or show up for a kick off to an Adult Care Brief Drive. I am proud to say that I am now in partnership with Bergen LEADS alumni such as Michele Ogden, CL12 and Jeanne Martin, CL13 who distribute adult absorbent products to their low income seniors in need.

Being part of LEADS is an experience I will never forget because of many once-in-a-lifetime moments. I walked away with a new family and know that we will always be there to support each other's endeavors.  This is what I am happy to Blame on Bergen LEADS!

You can blame it on Bergen LEADS as well!  Bergen LEADS is now accepting applications for the Class of 2016.  Applications are due April 11, and can be found online, along with all the important information.