Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Volunteer Spotlight - Erik Renn

Erik Renn is a 19 year old full-time college student from Fair Lawn who has been impacting the lives of many in and around his community and Bergen County as a volunteer for several years. Mahatma Gandhi once sated, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” and Erik has been modeling and living this since age sixteen.   

At age 16, he joined the Fair Lawn Fire Department as a junior member. Erik approaches all that he does with a spirit of excellence and, as such, attended and graduated the fire department academy (which is no easy feat). He is now is a full- fledged member of the department.  With all of his responsibilities, Erik still makes time to volunteer with two organizations; Fair Lawn Police Explorer and the Making-It-Home program of the Bergen Volunteer Center (BVC).

The Fair Lawn Police Explorer program introduces high school and college age individuals to police work and allows them to work alongside officers on certain assignments.

We at the Bergen Volunteer Center had the distinctive pleasure in November 2018 of adding Erik to our team of dedicated and skilled volunteers who daily ‘turn caring into meaningful action. No job is too small or too large for him as he assists the Making-It-Home volunteers in retrieving, storing and delivering gently-used furniture to formerly homeless persons, veterans, victims of domestic abuse, seniors and/ or individuals with disabilities in Bergen County.
In keeping with his work ethics, not only has he already amassed 100 hours with BVC but he has also garnered the respect and gratitude of both clients and staff. The annual Celebrate Volunteers event where agencies and other non- profit organizations acknowledge and celebrate exemplary volunteers was held on April 11th at Bergen Community College and Erik Renn was introduced to the world. Is there any wonder that Erik Renn was honored at this event? Congratulations and thank you for giving!  We wish you continued success in all of your academic and professional endeavors.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


This year was the third year that the Bergen Volunteer Center participated in Volunteers In Tax Assistance (VITA) program which is a free income tax preparation service designed to assist individuals and families. Tax clients, residing in Bergen County, that met the criteria for specific anti-poverty tax breaks, included the disabled, retired, elderly, and people who support dependents who are in college. This year, with the help of thirty (30) trained volunteers, more returns were filed than ever before. To accommodate the families, the volunteers working on weekends and some nights logged 1076 hours to complete all of the returns.  

A total of 177 federal tax returns were completed, averaging $1,480 refund per household. 184 state returns were filed for residents of the states of NY, NJ, AZ, CT, MA, and VA, averaging a $1,294 refund. In total, VITA clients received $314,000 in tax returns and were saved $45,000 in tax preparation services.  Incredibly amazing!

Both the clients and the volunteers felt incredibly rewarded and truly the success of the program underscores what research shows that volunteering is a two way street. “Volunteering can expand your horizons and utilize existing skill sets, while also giving you the opportunity to develop new ones. One of the most rewarding is the contact with the individuals you connect with while serving. As a volunteer, you can directly see the benefits that your work produces, whether you’re a mentor, helper or everyday participant. Seeing your actions make a positive difference for others is a strong motivator to continue serving”.

The youngest of the volunteers, Jordan and Jacob, are juniors at Mahwah High School and this was their first volunteer experience. They have both expressed how rewarding being a VITA volunteer is and they are excited to participate again next year. Research states that volunteering can improve/enhance current skills and one student indicated that his communication skills had improved during this process.

Bergen Volunteer Center’s, Debbie Emery who along with other BVC staff members managed this year’s VITA program  expressed the sentiments of all when she said, “it was a privilege to work with such dedicated and compassionate volunteers; I am so impressed with their care and concern for the clients’ well-being.”  The transformative power of giving- join the movement!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

April is volunteer month: Tips to get you started!

Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community. The benefits, however, can be even greater for you, the volunteer. Volunteering and helping others can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. Volunteering also provides a platform for you to share your skills and area of expertise to the benefit of organizations. Click here to see an example  Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

You are donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. The best way to volunteer is to find a match with your personality and interest. To make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit, research suggests that you  ask yourself if there is something specific that you want to do such as 
  • to improve the neighborhood where I live
  • to meet people who are different than me
  • to try something new
  • to do something with my spare time
  • to see a different way of life and new places
  • to have a go at the type of work I might want as a full-time job
  • to do more with my interests and hobbies

After you have identified your area of interest, be sure to engage the organization and or coordinator of your selected program by:-
Asking questions. You want to make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. Sample questions to your volunteer coordinator might address your time commitment, if there’s any training involved, who you will be working with, and what to do if you have questions during your experience.
Making sure you know what’s expected. You should be comfortable with the organization and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.
Now that you are armed with ALL this information, begin to enjoy the advantages of volunteering by visiting bergenvolunteers.org and viewing the hundreds of volunteer opportunities on the database. Sign up, enjoy your assignment and yourself and do not be afraid to make a change!