Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mentoring Moms Celebrates 20 Years of Service

On Saturday, May 16th, 80 remarkable women celebrated and recognized the tremendous impact that the Volunteer Center’s Mentoring Moms program has made on the Bergen County community at the 20th Anniversary Moms and Mentors Brunch. The event was held at the Volunteer Center in Hackensack in honor of Mother’s Day, with Bergen County Freeholder Tracy Zur as a special guest. Sterling Affair Caterers generously donated their services to provide a delicious, beautifully presented brunch for all of the attendees, and Perry’s Florist of Glen Rock donated flowering plants that served as centrepieces and were given to each mother and mentor at the end of the event.

Raising children today is a challenge for any parent, but it can be especially difficult for mothers who are living on the edge of stability due to poverty, a history of trauma or abuse, and/or mental illness. Mentoring Moms trains volunteer mentors to work with mothers who are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of children and life and who are also faced with immense personal challenges. When a struggling mother is supported by a mentor, the entire family benefits from that support. 95% of the mothers being mentored through Mentoring Moms are living in poverty and many are dealing with challenges such as language barriers, mental illness and/or children with emotional, behavioral or emotional challenges. Since 1995, Mentoring Moms has linked more than 500 mothers with mentors, helping each mother to work toward providing a safe, stable environment for her family.

Several women spoke at the Mentors and Mentors Brunch, including Volunteer Center CEO Lynne Algrant, Mentoring Moms Director Cindy Andrake, Freeholder Tracy Zur and several mentors and mentees from the program. “When you are feeling lost and don’t know where else to turn, the people in Mentoring Moms are willing and ready to give of their time for you and go the extra mile to help you, stated a single mother who has been mentored through the program for the past nine years. “I am very grateful to have Mentoring Moms in my life.” Another single mother spoke passionately about how much her personal challenges had taken a toll on her, but her mentor “…saw a rose in me, and helped me to bloom.” 

For more information about the Mentoring Moms program or to find out how to be a mentor, please visits or contact Cindy Andrake at, 201-489-9454, ext. 123.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Volunteer Center Receives Grant From TD Charitable Foundation

The TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, recently awarded a $20,000 grant to the Volunteer Center of Bergen County. Funds will support the Volunteer Center’s Mentoring Moms program, which matches overwhelmed mothers, many of whom are single parents, with caring mentors who provide emotional and practical support by helping them with everyday parenting challenges, including financial issues and other struggles.

The funds will be used to provide support financial workshops as well as other programs for these families, many of whom have limited resources.

“We are so grateful to TD Charitable Foundation for supporting the mothers and families in our program,” says Cindy Andrake, Program Director for Mentoring Moms. “Funding for workshops and events allow us to provide valuable learning opportunities which not only impacts mothers, but their children as well.” 

More women are needed to become mentors—there is an especially great need for bi-lingual, Spanish-speaking mentors.

To find out how to become a mentor, or to pledge a donation to support the Mentoring Moms program, call (201) 489-9454 or visit and click on mentoring programs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Volunteer Center of Bergen County is Charity of the Month at Meadowlands

For the entire month of May, the Volunteer Center of Bergen County will be the Charity of the Month at Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment. During every live racing night, guests can donate $1 to the Charity of the Month to participate in the horse toss for the Horseplay Car Giveaway that takes place after Race 9 each night. Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment will match every dollar raised in the horse toss and donate the proceeds to the Volunteer Center of Bergen County.

Horseplay Car Giveaway participants will receive a numbered rubber horse and attempt to throw it into the window of a moving car. A winner, randomly chosen from all the horses that make it into the car, will receive a $100 betting voucher. Each night’s winner will be entered into a grand prize drawing to win a Scion FRS on Hambletonian Day, Saturday, August 8th. After the horse toss each night, children are encouraged to pick up all the rubber horses left on the track and receive a free ice cream.

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County is a non-profit organization based in Hackensack that strengthens the community by connecting people through service and developing civic leaders. The Volunteer Center’s programs include the Chore Service, which provides minor home repairs, including installing safety grab bars, to people who are elderly and/or disabled; Mentoring Youth, a mentoring for children with emotional, social or behavioral challenges; Mentoring Moms, which provides mentors to mothers whose children are at-risk for abuse or neglect and Bergen LEADS, a learning and leadership program for adults.

For more information about the Volunteer Center please visit or call 201-489-9454.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Wonder of Books Brought to Children in Need

On Saturday, April 25th, children served by the Volunteer Center of Bergen County’s mentoring programs, excitedly perused and selected books from hundreds of donated titles at the annual The Big Book Giveaway, a free book fair for children and families.    

The Big Book Giveaway began five years ago to encourage the importance of early childhood literacy among the Mentoring Youth and Mentoring Moms families. This program provides mentors to children and families who are at-risk for social, emotional or behavioral challenges. 95% of the families served in this program make less that 24K a year, living at the poverty line. Buying books at a bookstore or at their school book fair is a luxury that is often not in the family budget, so our families rely on this special book fair to give their children books of their very own to keep and enjoy. A 6th grade boy who attended the fair excitedly shared with us, “There are a lot of good books here. I go to the library a lot but THESE are my own.”

Many of these families are struggling to provide the basics of shelter and food, and are faced with overwhelming personal challenges. By providing the children with age-appropriate, new books of their very own, the Big Book Giveaway helps the children to develop a love of reading, and encourages parents and caregivers to spend time reading with and to their children. In a recent survey conducted by the Volunteer Center, a 100% of Bergen Mentor’s family’s felt the Big Book Giveaway increased the family’s awareness on the importance of reading in their household. 

Over 8,600 new children’s books were collected for the Big Book Giveaway and other local literacy efforts through the Business Volunteer Council’s Books in a Bag program. Books in a Bag is conducted annually by the Volunteer Center of Bergen County’s Business Volunteer Council (BVC), a program which engages companies in employee volunteering and workplace giving.                     

Books were generously donated by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, United Water, KPMG, Konica Minolta, Janome America, Scholastic, BD and Books and Greetings bookstore. Books in a Bag was sponsored by Business Volunteer Council member companies Konica Minolta, United Water, BD and Rockland Electric.

If you are interested in learning more about the Business Volunteer Council and how your business can do increase its social footprint please contact or visit

United Water Enviornmental Symposium

United Water would like to invite you to a free upcoming Environmental Workshop on Friday, May 15th.  There will be a morning session from 8:30-11:30am as well as an afternoon session from 1:00-4:00 pm.  Please see the attached flyer for more information.  The workshop will revolve around invasive and native plants, the use of milkweed, and the importance of bees and pollination in a changing environment.
Space is limited so reserve your seat today.
Please contact Lori Murray at 201-986-2730 or via email at
Reservations must be made by Thursday, May 14th.  No walk-ins will be allowed.
Do not hesitate to share this opportunity with your organization, friends or anyone who might be interested in attending.  We hope to see you there. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Environment, Leadership and the Generations

Happy Spring!

We began Environment Day in Bergen LEADS this year with Eric Fuchs-Stengel, the 21 year old Founder and Executive Director of Mahwah Environment Volunteers Organization ( Eric is the poster-child of millennial leadership. Energetic, passionate, committed, he lights up a room as soon as he steps into it. More importantly, however, is the wisdom he imparts. MEVO has been conducting clean-ups of the illegal dumping at Stag Hill for years now. Yet as many tons of tires, construction debris and old toilets as MEVO volunteers pull out, more keeps arriving. Eric let the facts drive the discussion to the point when a Bergen LEADer called out “Is this legal and if not WHY, HOW can it still be happening?”

In 20 minutes, Eric moved a room full of folks from unaware of the problem, to analyzing the systems that have allowed the problem to persist, to activists ready to be pointed in the right direction to lend their voices and their voting power to solve a solvable problem. It was a tour de force in visionary leadership.

We ended the day with Captain Bill Sheehan, the Hackensack Riverkeeper ( . Captain Bill wasn’t wearing one of his collection of Jimmy Buffet style shirts this time, but if you tilted your head just right, you could hear the beat of “Margarita Ville” when he walked into the room. Captain Bill talked about compromise, looking for the win-win and leaving a legacy. As he took us through the alphabet soup of EPA and DEP, through Superfund or not to Superfund, the lawsuits waged and won, you begin to see the bureaucracy-slaying giant in the soft-spoken man. There are hawks and eagles in the Meadowlands because of his efforts and his willingness to work with anyone who would listen.  

Give yourself the gift of enjoying how beautiful Bergen County is this spring. Paddle down the Hackensack River from Overpeck Park, help haul some tires out of Stag Hill or plant vegetables at the new MEVO farm at 200 Campgaw Road in Mahwah. And while you do, think about how lucky we are to have leaders like Eric and Captain Bill here in Bergen County. And then think about how you are going to make your mark in our community.

From the desk of Lynne H. Algrant, CEO

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Applications Being Accepted for Youth Leadership Program

Leadership and Community Service the Focus of Week-Long Activities

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County will be offering two sessions of the kick off, one-week summer service and leadership program for local students this summer. The program, Ready Set Serve, is scheduled for June 22-25 for students entering 9th or 10th grade this September, and August 31-September 3 for students entering grades 6, 7 or 8. Both sessions will be held at the Volunteer Center in Hackensack from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm daily.

Ready Set Serve is an exciting and challenging program for Bergen County students who will be immersed in a week of interactive, interesting and fun activities, learning leadership skills that will help them make a difference in their schools and communities. The focus of Ready Set Serve is community service. Through a state-of –the-art curriculum that includes both classroom instruction and experiential training, students will participate in challenging exercises including community needs analysis, goal setting, team building, project planning, decision making and other dynamic leadership skills.

Kayla Cottiers, a 10th grader at Hackensack High School, participated in Ready Set Serve in 2014. “I have participated in many leadership programs through my school, church and camp but this experience with the Volunteer Center has been one of a kind. Ready Set Serve gave me the confidence and the knowledge to take my passions and ideas and turn them into action. Community service is something I will do for the rest of my life. I cannot wait to be student trainer during this summer’s session.”

The Ready Set Serve experience continues beyond the one week in summer. Participants will continue to meet monthly from September through March to discuss and work on individual or group service projects. A graduation and project presentation will be held in conjunction with the Volunteer Center’s Celebrate Volunteers recognition event in April 2016. Last summer, students initiated and worked on projects with many local non-profit agencies and programs, including the Volunteer Center’s Mentoring Youth and Mentoring Moms, Habitat for Humanity, MEVO, Center for Food Action, Bergen Family Promise and many more.

“The ultimate purpose of Ready Set Serve is to help create stronger communities - and a stronger nation - by igniting in young people the ability and desire to make meaningful, lifelong contributions to their communities,” says Debbie Emery, Community Volunteer Services Director at the Volunteer Center. “Students participating in this program will have a great activity to add to their college applications, as well as service hours they can use to meet requirements of schools and religious institutions.”

The fee to attend this program is $350 per student, which includes all class materials, snacks, beverages and lunch on the Thursday closing session. Students provide their own lunch the other days. The deadline for application is May 31. Tuition information and to obtain an application, click here.