Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey and Volunteerism

I think we are all thinking about Hurricane Harvey and the people of southeastern Texas.  And of course, we want to know what we can do to help.  I met recently with Jocelyn Gilman and Muraad Abussalaam of the NJ Red Cross and they offered lots of great information that I am happy to pass along.
Ten month old Astro Arriaga sleeps in a Red Cross Shelter in Victoria, Texas.
Photo by Daniel Cima for The American Red Cross – August 26, 2017
The most important thing to know in the wake of a natural disaster is that cash donations are actually the best way to help. Money can be used to get local supplies and to give direct aid to victims.  While we often think about sending supplies, we need to recognize that things are hard to transport over long distances and hard to store.  With so much of southeastern Texas flooded, any in-kind donations are being routed to Dallas--3 and 1/2 hours away.

When making a donation, be sure that you have chosen a reputable nonprofit.  The NJ Division of Consumer Affairs warns us to avoid "charities" that have Hurricane Harvey in their names, as they might be scams.

You can donate blood locally and it will help supplies nationwide, which will help Harvey victims. There are other good suggestions for ways to help in this article.

Finally, another way to not feel so helpless in the wake of so much suffering is to get involved locally. Start by making sure you and your family are prepared for a man-made or natural disaster.  The Red Cross has a new free app (available at the iTunes App Store and Google Play) that provides incredible information and functions.

Perhaps you want to be trained as a Red Cross or CERT team volunteer, so that you can be ready if and when you are needed.

Jocelyn and Muraad reminded me that each year, most of the time the Red Cross is responding to house fires. Fire prevention, fire safety and smoke detectors are things we can take care of immediately.  By taking care of ourselves and our neighbors, we insure that the resources needed in Texas can get there.

Stay safe. Stay involved. #bergengivesback #bcvolunteers


Monday, August 28, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Lowell, Bill, Ed and Carlos!

New Jersey Magazine honored Chore through its “Seeds of Hope” award, recognizing charitable organizations and residents of the Garden State.  Additionally, Chore was chosen out of several hundred applicants to be featured in a WABC-TV special, Volunteers Across America, which was aired on ABC affiliates throughout the country.  Chore has also been featured on numerous TV and radio newscasts, in stories on talk shows and in print media in the Northern New Jersey area.

Lowell Patton, Bill Nugent, Ed Leon and Carlos Arizaga are the Friday, Chore Van #2 crew.

Mr. and Mrs. S write: “Thank you for your excellent and prompt service.  This was our first experience with Chore and it was First Class—all the way!  Skillful and professional phone gal in the office and skillful and efficient “techies” on the van! 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Mike!

Mike Silverstein has been a Chore volunteer for three years, and is part of the Monday, Chore Van #1 crew.  Prior to his 35 years as a full time college professor, he was employed by manufacturing and consulting firms as an industrial engineer.  After retiring from full time teaching in 1997, he taught part time until 2014. He recently became chairperson of the MS Swim-In Board, and is a member of both the senior housing and transportation committees in Teaneck. He enjoys woodworking and has created over 100 wine cork-corkboards for friends and family.  He was a competitive bullseye shooter and competitive small bore rifle shooter for many years.  “I enjoy working with my mind and hands, and also enjoy the camaraderie of working with people my own age, helping individuals who are less fortunate financially or physically than I.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Rob, John, Tom & Steve!

The Chore Program and its volunteers have been featured in an article about giving back to the community in an issue of ‘This Old House’ Magazine.  Chore is a recipient of the prestigious NJ Governor’s Award for Service to Senior Citizens.  Chore was named a Daily Point of Light by the Points of Light Foundation, the Corporation of Community Service and the Knights of Columbus for its remarkable record of community service and exemplary volunteerism. 

Rob Rossi, John Tercek, Tom Veit and Steve Kaplowitz are the members of the Thursday, Chore Van #1 crew.

Mrs. O writes:  “I commend you on such excellent help for us seniors, so in need.  The Chore crew worked so hard at my home for an extended time to put air conditioners in for me and my disabled son.  I am 83 years old and living on a limited income.  We never could afford outside help.  I cannot thank you enough for these very special men you sent!  We seniors are so lucky for this organization and I hope everyone is as grateful as I am for all of you.”

Monday, August 7, 2017

Meet the Chore Volunteers - Joe C!

Joe Cutolo has been with Chore since 2009, and he works on two crews each week—the Monday Chore Van #3 and Tuesday, Chore Van #2.  Prior to joining Chore, he worked in the oil industry for 40 years and operated oil tankers world-wide.  When he is not volunteering for Chore, he spends much time as Commander of American Legion Post 21 in Cresskill, supporting veterans and the community.    In his spare time, he enjoys making wooden model sailing ships and gardening.  “I have been fortunate in my lifetime and enjoy helping those who can use a helping hand.  I derive a great sense of satisfaction.  It is a reminder that my problems are insignificant compared to those of some clients we visit.  I have made some good friendships with the Monday and Tuesday crews, and we have shared many different repair techniques and skills.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Bergen County's Hidden Therapeutic Gem - by Elma

One of the greatest advantages of getting the opportunity to work at the Bergen Volunteer Center is the ability to visit the many institutions in Bergen County - many of which I had not known about before.

One such institution was the New Alliance Academy. Just a few weeks shy of summer vacation, Debbie Emery had invited me to go along with her and Eric Fuchs-Stengel to New Alliance Academy. Pulling up to the school, taking in its beige building hooded by its green canopy, I thought nothing of it. I thought nothing of it because I was not familiar with the institution.

But, when I stepped inside I was overwhelmed by its significance.

New Alliance Academy is a high school for teenagers experiencing acute psychological distress. In addition to meeting the student's’ educational needs, the Academy also provides continuum of care which provides the students with emotional and therapeutic services. 

As I walked through their halls, I witnessed the impact of New Alliance Academy. The classrooms were lined with bookshelves containing everything from classic literature to political commentary books. The walls were covered with the artwork from the students and their well written papers.

I also had the opportunity to talk with the teachers. The investment and care which they showed for their students was remarkable. They, including the principal, knew each student at a personal level.

Their care for the students allowed them to see the need to engage them in community service. The three of us were there to discuss the importance of becoming involved in the community. Volunteerism encourages unity, leadership, confidence, discipline, and commitment. These are skills that are important for all students to possess, regardless of the type of school they attend.

Although I was there to inform the faculty of New Alliance Academy about the significance of community service, I came away, that day, learning more about Bergen County.

Our county has hidden gems. For me, the New Alliance Academy was a gem that I had the privilege of uncovering.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Message From Our CEO

Dog Days of Summer

Growing up, my father was a college administrator. Now married to a high school principal, August has continued to be that quiet before the storm, that period of reflection before the rush of the fall semester.  August through Labor Day has always been the run up to the "new year" for me and a time for resolutions and plans. 

So what are nonprofits doing in August?  Most are planning for a VERY busy September through December.  And all are thinking about how to engage volunteers in their important work.  

Here at the Bergen Volunteer Center we are: 

--Actively recruiting volunteers for our programs--Chore handypersons, and mentors for moms and teen agers;

--Making-It-Home is gearing up to furnish the new Veterans apartments in Emerson in September;

--Opening days for Bergen LEADS, Teen LEADS and College LEADS are being finalized;

--Office hours for our Redefining Retirement "matchmakers" are being scheduled;

-- And we are planning the Fall Volunteer Fair to be held on September 12th at the Paramus Park Mall.

So in the dog days of summer, the quiet before that first school bell rings, as you curl up with the last stack of beach novels and magazine articles, we hope you will also think about volunteering this fall.  And remember two things:

"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."
--Elizabeth Andrew 


"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. . . . You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Enjoy the Dog Days of Summer,