Friday, March 31, 2017

Place Matters

Place Matters--and Bergen County is a great place for low-income kids. A new ground-breaking study takes a look at the impact of where kids grow up on their adult earnings. Bergen County ranks 3rd in the nation and 1st in New Jersey as a place where low-income kids are able to better their lives. "Every year a poor child lives in Bergen County adds $180 to his or her annual income at age 26." They will be less likely to be a single parent and more likely to attend college.

So what does Bergen County have that other places don't? According to the
NY Times, the difference is elementary schools with higher test scores, a higher percentage of two-parent families, high levels of civic engagement and better socio-economic and racial integration.

We've always known that Bergen County was a great place for kids, but isn't it great to know that it is a land of opportunity as well? This study makes me even prouder to be at The Volunteer Center of Bergen County--the center of Civic Engagement and Leadership with programs like
Bergen LEADS and Ready Set Serve. As importantly, despite these statistics, we know that growing up poor in Bergen County isn't easy. So we have Bergen Mentors to provide caring, well-trained and well-supported Mentors to kids at risk and to moms, whose kids are at risk.

Place Matters--Bergen County is a national leader in providing lifelong opportunity--and The Volunteer Center of Bergen County is making it better every day!

Lynne H. Algrant

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month

The Bergen Volunteer Center hosted Celebrate Volunteers on March 27th, a community-wide event to honor volunteers who help our organizations extend our reach and further our impact.  With 150 volunteers from 16 local nonprofits and companies in attendance, there was no friendlier or warmer room in all of Bergen County.

There are numerous studies and surveys that try to capture the impact of volunteerism.  Some studies record hours and assign a "value," based upon prevailing wages in an attempt to calculate the value of the time donated. Other studies try to quantify the economic benefit to the clients served. However, none of these studies can calculate the value of caring and knowing that someone cares enough to give of themselves and their time.

Agency after agency spoke of the transformative power of caring.  The Thursday hotline volunteer at the Center for Hope and Safety--a warm, caring voice to provide guidance and support to a domestic violence victim; the mentors who let kids and moms know that they are worthy of love; the "mailing ladies" at Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, who fold and label and post mailings year after year; the iTN volunteer, whose schedule this week alone will provide rides to 7 different seniors--and on and on and on....

And every single volunteer in the room said some version of "I get more out of volunteering than I give." Volunteers are the best people in the world.  Thank You--is just a small token of our appreciation.

A big Thank You to our sponsors of the evening, Boiling Springs Savings Bank, Sharp, AARP of New Jersey, Applebee’s, GreenLink Networks and Synetek Solutions.

To learn how to get involved in volunteering please visit

The Bergen Volunteer Center turns caring into meaningful action by engaging volunteers to meet community needs.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Oggie!

Sheridan “Oggie” Ogden was a police sergeant in Teaneck for over 26 years before retiring.  He still teaches new officers at the Bergen County Police Academy.

He has been a member of the Monday, Chore Van #C3 crew for the past 4 years, and when he is not on the road with them, he enjoys fishing, and also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity in Pike County, PA, where he spends his summers. “I volunteer for Chore because not only does it mean I get to work with a great crew on Monday, but I can help people and learn many new skills.”

To celebrate this incredibly impactful program that enables thousands of seniors and disabled individuals to live safely and independently in their homes, please join us at the
Saturday, May 13, 2017
6 pm -10 pm
Camp Merritt-Cresskill American Legion
Tickets are $50
Includes dinner, soda, beer, wine and dessert!  Catered by Nightingale!
Entertainment provided by the Flying Ivories Dueling Pianos!

Visit or call 201-489-9454 to purchase your tickets TODAY!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Women Volunteers Needed to Mentor Struggling Mothers and their Families

Raising a family is a challenge for any parent, but it can be especially overwhelming 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, a program of the Bergen Volunteer Center, trains volunteer mentors to support mothers who are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising a family and who are also faced with immense personal challenges.

“I have learned so much about raising my son.” “I feel better as a parent and as a person since meeting my mentor,” say mothers currently in the program. Mentors are caring women who understand how hard it is to raise children and want to make life easier for other moms, who are often referred through community or child service agencies. 95% of the mothers being mentored live below the poverty line and are often single parents with limited resources.

“Mentors provide informal support and access to resources to help strengthen the family unit”, says Cindy Andrake, program director of Mentoring Moms. “We know that parents find it easier to care for their children and themselves when they have a network of positive relationships surrounding them, so often the benefits of supporting mothers extend beyond the parent to the family as well. Most all parents need someone they can call on when they need a sympathetic listener, some advice or ongoing support—our mentors fill that role.”

Volunteers are provided with a free multi-session, 10-hour training program and ongoing support from program staff. Training includes developing listening skills, dealing with communication challenges as well as understanding the role of a mentor. Guest speakers include current mentors and/or mothers who have participated in the program. While each situation is different, one mother aptly described her mentor as “Someone I can talk to besides family, who understands and cares. She makes me think about my life and encourages me.”

Registration is now open for Mentoring Moms Spring training, which begins April 3 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Bergen Volunteer Center, 64 Passaic Street, Hackensack, NJ. Call (201) 489-9454, ext.211 to learn how to become a Mentoring Moms volunteer, and positively impact a mother’s – and her family, too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Join us at Fifth Friday - Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal

Join us for lunch as Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal will be discussing current topics affecting Bergen County.  

Gurbir S. Grewal was appointed as Acting Bergen County Prosecutor on January 4, 2016 and was sworn in as Bergen County Prosecutor on Nov. 14, 2016.  As Prosecutor, he is the chief law enforcement officer of Bergen County – the most populous county in New Jersey and home to nearly 1 million residents living in 70 municipalities.  He oversees a staff of approximately 265 personnel at the Bergen County Prosecutors Office (“BCPO”), consisting of Assistant Prosecutors, Detectives, and support staff. 

Friday, March 31, 2017
11:30AM – 2:00PM
Hilton Hasbrouck Heights/Meadowlands
$40 - Register HERE!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Joe, Ed and Ed!

When a person first begins to volunteer for Chore he or she is assigned a weekly shift with a particular crew.  Currently we have 14 crews of 2 to 4 volunteers who ride in 3 specially equipped vans as they travel throughout Bergen County performing the minor home repairs that keep our neighbors safe.  The crews not only can complete a myriad of jobs for each of the 4 to 5 clients they see each day, but they often represent a  welcome visit for many of the clients who are homebound.  Our clients will write letters of thanks, telling us how much they appreciated not only the repairs the crews completed for them, but how friendly and caring the crews were.

Joe Cutolo, Ed Lipiner and Ed Morandi are the Tuesday, Chore Van #2 crew.
Mrs. R., a Chore client, writes: “Thank you for the stairway railing Chore volunteers installed several months ago.  The other day, I slipped on the stairs and if it wasn’t for the railing, I surely would have been badly injured.  Thank you for keeping me safe.”

To celebrate this incredibly impactful program that enables thousands of seniors and disabled individuals to live safely and independently in their homes, please join us at the 40th Anniversary of Chore BeefsteakDinner!

Saturday, May 13, 2017
6 pm -10 pm
Camp Merritt-Cresskill American Legion
Tickets are $50
Includes dinner, soda, beer, wine and dessert!  Catered by Nightingale!
Entertainment provided by the Flying Ivories Dueling Pianos!

Visit or call 201-489-9454 to purchase your tickets TODAY!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Heroes Wanted: Local Youth in Need of Mentors

Each year in Bergen County approximately 600 children are removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or other factors that place them at risk of harm. These children are placed in foster homes, residential facilities, hospitals, shelters or in the care of other family members. The Bergen Volunteer Center’s Mentoring Youth program is currently recruiting volunteer mentors to work one-on-one with youth between the ages of 5-21 who are facing these difficult challenges.

For 40 years, Mentoring Youth has trained and supervised adult volunteers to serve as mentors to youth confronted with adverse social, emotional and/or behavioral challenges at home or in their daily lives. Mentors serve as positive role models; provide guidance, friendship and support; and advocate on behalf of youth when called upon to do so.

The next 3-week Mentoring Youth training will begin on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Each session is held from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at the Bergen Volunteer Center.

“Volunteers in the Mentoring Youth program improve the lives and experiences of children who need someone they can trust, someone to show them they are not alone,” says Lynne Algrant, Volunteer Center CEO. “There is an especially great need for men to mentor boys and for bi-lingual, Spanish-speaking mentors of both genders. There are not nearly enough volunteers enrolled so far.”

“These children are waiting for someone to step in and to believe in them, to encourage them to laugh and to succeed,” says Dr. Faith Samples-Smart, Mentoring Youth Program Director. “Time spent with mentors represent opportunities for youth to experience the world from a different vantage point and to build memories of happy times in spite of obstacles in their lives. What better than the simplicity of childhood?”

Mentors show children a different perspective, expose them to unexplored opportunities and help them to build trust. According to a study by Big Brothers/Big Sisters, youth who regularly meet with a mentor are 52% less likely than peers to skip school and 46% less likely to use drugs. Additionally, they are 33% less likely to hit someone or to start drinking. By sharing fun activities and exposing a youth to new experiences, mentors encourage positive choices, promote high self-esteem, support academic achievement and introduce young people to new ideas.

Mentoring Youth volunteer training is provided at no charge and covers such topics as the benefits of mentoring for volunteers and children; child and adolescent development; understanding child maltreatment; effective listening and communication skills; building rapport and developing strong mentoring relationships; the role of the mentor; and the matching and closure process. Additionally, training specifically addresses the needs of youth in the foster care system. Applicants are required to undergo a comprehensive background check and must obtain written letters recommendation as part of the training course. For more information about the Mentoring Youth program, contact Eva Tobias at (201) 489-9454 x-209, or visit and click on Mentoring Youth.

The Bergen Volunteer Center turns caring into meaningful action by engaging volunteers to meet community needs.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Community Partners Making-It-Home for Two Bergen County Residents

The cold month of February brought much warmth to two appreciative Bergen County residents. 

Ramon and Narcy were overcome with joy when volunteers from Ridgewood Moving Services arrived with kitchen, bedroom and living room furniture for their apartment in Hackensack.  Prior to our arrival they had borrowed lights and two chairs from friends because they did not have extra money to purchase furniture or accessories on their own. 

Ridgewood Moving, a vital partner with Making-It-Home, collects furniture for us when their customers wish to donate pieces to the program. For this particular move, they provided furniture from one of their clients, picked up additional pieces from our storage unit, and delivered all to Ramon and Narcy, easing their transition from emergency shelter to permanent housing.   

Under the leadership of Chief James O’Connor, officers from the Lyndhurst Police Department have proven to be among our most dedicated volunteers and donors.  On February 22nd, seven off-duty officers arrived at our storage unit with one truck full of donated furniture and two additional trucks ready to load for our newest client, Milan.  In record time, they used their brains and brawn to assemble a kitchen table and move 8 pieces of furniture and accessories into Milan’s one-bedroom apartment in Lodi.  

For more information about the Making-It-Home Program, please contact Christine at  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Volunteers Bring Reading to Children in Need

Over 1,000 new children’s books were distributed through the Business Volunteer Council’s Books in a Bag program at the Bergen Volunteer Center. Books in a Bag is conducted annually by the Bergen Volunteer Center’s Business Volunteer Council (BVC), a program which engages companies in employee volunteering and workplace giving. 
Volunteers from NatureX packed the books into drawstring bags on March 1, which were then distributed to 472 pre-K and kindergarten students at the Quarles School in Englewood on March 2nd, in honor of Read Across America Day. Volunteers from BVC member companies NatureX, Atlantic Stewardship Bank, and Five Star Premier Residences were on hand to read to the students.
“According to Project Literacy of Bergen County, more than 150,000 people in Bergen County cannot read beyond the 4th grade level,” states Maureen Cameron, the Volunteer Center’s Chief Philanthropic Officer. “The Business Volunteer Council recognizes that literacy is not just the responsibility of our educational system, but the entire community and is poised to change the statistics. Books in a Bag was created not only to teach our children the value of reading, but to educate parents on the significant impact family reading can have on a child’s development.”
Books in a Bag was sponsored by Business Volunteer Council   member companies Konica Minolta, Sharp, Atlantic Stewardship Bank, and NatureX. Jim Eustice of NatureX stated that “everyone one of us who volunteered, no matter in what way, walked away a little happier and with more of a smile than we had when we walked in!” 

Mary Jo Cook of NatureX added “This was a great experience! It was wonderful to be in a school taking part in a reading program for children. They really enjoy being read to and acting out stories.”

The Business Volunteer Council gives businesses a platform to successfully engage employees through volunteer service and workplace giving. The BVC provides customized volunteer projects, including skills-based volunteering and support for corporate social responsibility initiatives. The BVC makes doing good an easy part of doing business by building high-impact employee led-programs that are locally significant and socially relevant. Companies with the right engagement tools and guidance can create incredible social change, while having a fun, memorable team building experience! For more information about the BVC, contact Maureen Cameron at 201-489-9454, ext. 204 or

Monday, March 13, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Elliott Wolk

As part of our ongoing celebration of the Chore Service’s 40th Anniversary of keeping Bergen County seniors and disabled residents safe, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our caring Chore volunteers.

Prior to joining Chore 14 years ago as part of the Friday, Van #1 crew, Elliott Wolk was a CFO in the garment industry. When he is not busy with Chore, he enjoys Sudoku puzzles, auto mechanics, spending time with his grandchildren and people watching.  He says he volunteers for Chore because he loves helping people, and has made some good friends of his fellow volunteers.  “An enjoyable way to do some good”.
To celebrate this incredibly impactful program that enables thousands of seniors and disabled individuals to live safely and independently in their homes, please join us at the 40th Anniversary of Chore BeefsteakDinner!

Saturday, May 13, 2017
6 pm -10 pm
Camp Merritt-Cresskill American Legion
Tickets are $50
Includes dinner, soda, beer, wine and dessert!  Catered by Nightingale!
Entertainment provided by the Flying Ivories Dueling Pianos!

call 201-489-9454 to purchase your tickets TODAY!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Making-It-Home Clients Pay It Forward

Making-It-Home’s mission is to provide a comfortable home environment to individuals moving from emergency shelter to new apartments.  We partner with local civic organizations, corporations and individuals who volunteer their time and transportation to get donated furniture where it is needed most.  Recently, two grateful clients volunteered to “Pay It Forward” and use their own muscle to make new clients’ apartments feel like home. 

Jason, an Army veteran, left emergency shelter, secured a new apartment in Hasbrouck Heights and enrolled in school to complete his Bachelor’s degree.  When we connected with him to discuss his furniture needs, he told us he was pretty strong and also wanted to volunteer for Making-It-Home.  Mike, another Making-It-Home client, also wanted to “pay-it-forward” after receiving furniture from the program in 2016.  On February 7th Jason and Mike arrived at the Westy storage unit ready to work.  They loaded furniture from the unit into our rental truck and traveled to Upper Saddle River to pick up some more.  From there, we traveled to Garfield and Hasbrouck Heights to furnish two apartments, and then returned to Westy to store the remaining pieces.  In total, our client volunteers moved 20 pieces of furniture, including 3 sofas, that day!    

Jason returned on Valentine’s Day for a full day of donation pick-ups!  He and another volunteer, Craig, collected 17 pieces of furniture from 4 homes throughout Bergen County, filling the truck to the top, and moved the pieces into our storage unit.   This furniture is now ready to distribute to future clients.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Arts Program Brings the Joy!

Mentoring Moms mentor, Rita Bakr, along with her two mentees attended the Dionne Warwick show on Friday, March 3rd at Bergen PAC.  They received free tickets through Bergen PAC’s Arts Access program, which provides free tickets to organizations serving individuals who would otherwise be unable to experience live performing arts.

Many of the mothers in Mentoring Moms are single mothers struggling to provide for their families.  A night out at a live performance is hardly doable on a tight budget.  The Arts Access gives these mothers the opportunity to experience cultural arts, as well as a give them a much needed break!  Rita, a mentor to 2 mothers in the programs, said of the evening, “It was great and we all had a lovely time. Many thanks for the tickets!”  Rita noted how helpful the staff was to her mentee, who is confined to a wheelchair, “ We had to be relocated to the orchestra level …. but the floor manager was very accommodating.”

A special big thank you to the Bergen PAC Arts Access program for not only providing this wonderful opportunity, but for taking the extra steps to take care of our families !

To learn more about the Mentoring Moms program click here.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers!

In 2017, the Bergen Volunteer Center’s Chore Service celebrates 40 years of keeping Bergen County’s elderly and disabled residents safe in their own homes, by performing minor home repairs free of charge, except for the cost of any parts used.

From our humble beginnings in 1977, when 2 volunteers used their own cars to visit about 15 Bergen County neighbors a month, we have grown into the robust organization we are today, in which 45 volunteers travel in a fleet of vans to every town in Bergen County!  Last year, we completed over 5,000 repairs, logged in 10,000 volunteer hours and served over 1,400 residents!

The heart and soul of the Chore Service are our amazing volunteers.  They come to us with varying backgrounds, experiences and interests, but all with a common goal—to use their skills in home repair to help our most vulnerable neighbors.

Each week until the end of the year, we will introduce you to different Chore volunteers and crews to share their stories, and to look forward to the next 40 years of Chore!

To begin, we’d like to introduce you to Carlos Arizaga, who has been a member of the Friday Chore Van #2 crew for the past 2 years.  He currently is the Building Maintenance  Supervisor at Temple Sinai in Tenafly, and volunteers for Chore on his day off.  He likes keeping busy by repairing things at home, at work and with Chore. He enjoys the time he spends with his Chore crew, sharing knowledge of household repairs.  “I have a pleasant time by helping others in need”.

To celebrate this incredibly impactful program that enables thousands of seniors and disabled individuals to live safely and independently in their homes, please join us at the 40th Anniversary of Chore BeefsteakDinner!

Saturday, May 13, 2017
6 pm -10 pm
Camp Merritt-Cresskill American Legion
Tickets are $50
Includes dinner, soda, beer, wine and dessert!  Catered by Nightingale!
Entertainment provided by the Flying Ivories Dueling Pianos!

Visit or call 201-489-9454 to purchase your tickets TODAY!