Tuesday, August 14, 2018


MEET: Elma Chowdhury

In a few weeks, I will be packing up my life – putting away my clothes, my pictures, my home, in storage boxes and driving down to Baltimore for college. I will begin my freshman year of college at Johns Hopkins University – my dream college ever since I was in third grade. As I prepare for the next chapter of my life, I find myself reflecting on the past four years of my life, my time in high school and everything I did to get to this point. My family will be quick to remind me that admittance into my dream college is due to my own perspiration, however, I know that luck had a hand in this as well.

It was luck that Debbie Emery, Director of Community Volunteer Services, introduced me to the prevailing issue of homelessness in Bergen County. Her influence sparked my interest in studying homelessness and imagining programs to ameliorate the issue. It was luck that Debbie, then, took me under her wing and introduced me to her Bergen Volunteer Center family. My internship with the BVC was, honestly, the springboard that allowed me to jump into my future. Through my internship, I learned so much about my community – everything from its people to its organizations – and created so many meaningful connections.

As a BVC intern, I had the opportunity to develop and practice many important skills, such as humility, patience and communication. There were times when distressed Bergen County residents would climb up the BVC stairs, asking for help. I would listen to them, along with Debbie and the ladies up front, and direct them to the appropriate program to receive help. I also remember visiting the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center. It was humbling to witness the beds and the rooms kept for homeless individuals. Through these interactions, the BVC expanded my understanding of the human condition.

Debbie had put me in touch with the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative, a non-profit clinic. This was another force of luck; I began to intern at BVMI from the summer of 2017 and throughout my senior year of high-school. Through the clinic, I was able to explore access to healthcare for the underserved population, another issue I am interested in. All of these together shaped my desire to study Public Health and bring a positive change in my community.

Elma, we at BVC cannot wait to see the positive impact and influence that you will have in making our world a better place.  KEEP ON SOARING HIGH!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Redefining Retirement Program Announces Fall Information Session Schedule!

Bergen Volunteer Center’s Redefining Retirement program matches retirees with nonprofits and community organizations that need support in a wide variety of specific, skills-based volunteer roles.

Currently, Redefining Retirement is working with Bergen’s “Age Friendly” Communities— Englewood, Garfield, Ridgewood, Teaneck, and Westwood — plus Hackensack, hosting once-a-month informal sessions.  Volunteer “Matchmakers” are at these sessions to interview applicants and discuss their interests and experiences so that they can connect you with identified volunteer opportunities.

2018 Information Sessions are currently scheduled as follows:

  • Englewood Library, 1:00 – 3:00: September 11, October 9, November 13, December 11       
  • Garfield Library, 11:00 – 1:00: September 10, October 1, November 5, December 3  
  • Hackensack--Johnson Public Library, 12:00 – 2:00: September 5, October 3, November 7, December 5   
  • Ridgewood Parks and Recreation Department, 10:00 – 12:00: September 5, October 9, November 7,  December 10  
  • Teaneck Library, 11:00 – 1:00: September 4, October 2, November 6, December 4  
  • Westwood Community Center, 9:00 – 11:00: September 6, October 4, November 1, December 6 

Since the launch of Redefining Retirement a year ago, over 50 volunteers have been matched with volunteer roles. Volunteers have been placed at Meals on Wheels North Jersey; Bergen Family Center, Englewood Community Chest, Holy Name Hospital, Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, Ridgewood Historical Society/Schoolhouse Museum, Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization, and Garfield YMCA, to name a few. 

“One of our overarching goals is to help Bergen County as a community understand the asset and valuable resource older adults are and will continue to be as our society ages chronologically, but not necessarily mentally or physically,” says Louisa Hellegers, who leads the Redefining Retirement program. She goes on to say, “It is a rewarding experience for everyone to see how the partnership between a retired volunteer and a nonprofit enables caring to be turned into meaningful action.”

For information about the Redefining Retirement program and the scope of the Bergen Volunteer Center programs and volunteer opportunities, visit our website at bergenvolunteers.org.   To reach Louisa Hellegers, Manager of Redefining Retirement, email at lhellegers@bergenvolunteers.org or call 201-489-9454, x205.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Support a Child Separated from their Parents

Each year, nearly 500 abused and neglected children in Bergen County need to be separated from their parents. The trauma these young people endured at the hands of their abusers, is only half of their battle though. Placement in an unfamiliar home, with no clear idea of what their future holds, only serves to exacerbate their battered spirits. They may have even been separated from their siblings, intensifying their feeling of isolation. These children need stability. They need someone to look out for them.

They need you.

Bergen County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is looking for compassionate, dedicated adults to represent foster children in Family Court.  Bergen County CASA trains and supports community volunteers as they advocate for the best interests of children who have already suffered enough in their short lives. To learn more, please visit our website www.bergencasa.org and RSVP for one of our information sessions. Alternatively, call Lauren at (201) 336-7520 or email her at lauren@bergencasa.org.

Make a Difference in the Life of a Child – Become a CASA Volunteer!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


MEET: JoAnn Jung
 “I can't believe it's already been more than two years since I worked under you (at the Bergen Volunteer Center). I am pursuing a major in International Relations with minor in Education studies, which is far different than when I was intending to major in Business when working with you. But actually, a lot of the managing experience from Bergen Volunteer Center serves me well!
I have been devoting a lot of my time to learn about education during my time at Wellesley.  Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education graciously gave me the opportunity to research ways to mitigate the effects of poverty throughout the academic year, and this summer, I am at the U.S. Department of Education, office of International and Foreign Language Education, helping the program directors allocate grants to applicants who are seeking to do training, curriculum development, or research overseas.  One of the most eye opening events I attended was a meeting with the grantees of the program I am working with. I've attached pictures of me at the Polish embassy with professors who have received the grants, and will be abroad in the next week. To see some of the work actually come into fruition is absolutely inspiring and heartening, and it has been an amazing experience.
Debbie, I miss your fun spirit and energy in the office, and I realize how awesome it is to work with personalities like yours especially as I meet new co-workers in my office“.

JoAnn who was an office intern at the Bergen Volunteer Center graduated from River Dell Regional HS in June 2016. JoAnn, your comments underscore the findings about the benefits for students who volunteer (Teenlife.com):
  • Teaches you social and networking skills.
  • Lets you see how others experience the world and open your eyes to something new.

JoAnn, we at the Volunteer Center wish you continued academic growth and success. We are thrilled but not surprised that your experience at BVC helped prepare you for some of your current experiences. KEEP SOARING HIGH!!