Monday, March 23, 2020

Volunteering in the Time of Coronavirus

How can we come together when we’re supposed to be six feet apart?

People are finding creative ways to bridge the gap and strengthen our community.

Around Bergen County

Friends and neighbors throughout Bergen County are reaching out to those in need. Here are just a few stories of what individuals are doing to help:

Maintaining our mental wellness during a pandemic is just as important as protecting our physical health. Many people are using live streaming and video services to provide activities to keep our bodies and minds active.

Hackensack High School might have canceled classes, but student Ryan Ang isn’t treating his time off as a vacation. As one of the youngest basketball trainers, he is using his skills to provide free lessons via Instagram Live.

Judy Cohen, the owner of The Paint Box in Oradell, is offering online painting classes for students who are stuck at home. She is also collecting monetary donations to send care packages of art supplies to local senior citizens. She can be reached at if you would like to donate.

Restaurants are also stepping up to feed people who are facing food insecurity. If you order a “cheeseburger with love" or "hot dog with love” at Steve’s Burgers in Garfield your meal is free with the purchase of a drink.

You may be wondering what you can personally contribute. There are many opportunities to give back that keep everyone safe and healthy.

Social Distancing ≠ Social Isolation

Even before social distancing became an unfortunate necessity, 43% of adults aged 65 or above reported that they struggled with loneliness on a regular basis. Since this population is the most likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19, many are under strict orders to self-isolate from family and friends. Nursing homes and other long-term health facilities have temporarily barred visitors throughout the state to protect their residents.

This is a difficult time to be a volunteer, knowing that often the best way to help is to be hands-off. Many of us volunteer because we like to personally see the impact we are making and meet with the people we are helping face-to-face. However, there are ways that you can help right from your couch.

How You Can Help

1. Call a Senior

Now is a perfect time to catch up with a loved one over the phone. Take a few minutes each day to check in on a senior family member or neighbor. See if they need groceries or help to schedule telehealth appointments. There are also services like CHEER or Umbrella that will match you with a senior in your community who would be overjoyed to talk to you. Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh of Ridgewood is running a similar “Adopt a Senior” program.

2. Donate Funds to a Local Food Pantry

With schools no longer in session and many workers’ hours being cut, food pantries are seeing an uptick in demand. Rather than donating canned goods, monetary donations will stretch your dollar further. Food pantries have the opportunity to purchase goods wholesale, sometimes even at a discount which means they can get more bang for your buck. When in-house volunteers do the shopping and sorting, fewer people are handling donations which limit the possibility of the disease spreading.

3. Crafting for Good

Kids restless and bored at home? Flex your creative muscles and work together with them on a craft project that will brighten someone’s day. Check with your local senior living facility to see if they are accepting handmade cards and letters.

Know of any other programs helping those in need? Let us know in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Census 2020: User Guide

United States households are currently receiving their 2020 Census.

You may be wondering what the information is used for, who can see it, and what exactly is being asked. Here’s a quick guide on what the census is and how it affects you:  

Why Should I Participate?

Your participation in the 2020 Census benefits you, loved ones, and the community at large! 
$675 billion in federal funding is distributed every year across the United States. This money goes on to support programs such as schools, Medicare, housing, new roads, and much, much more! Non-profits also depend on these funds to help communities on a local level. Critical programs could face reductions in the people they serve if there is a discrepancy between the actual number of people in a community versus the people that responded. 
How you are represented in the government is also dependent on 2020 Census responses. The number of seats each state is allowed in the House of Representatives is determined by the population in a district. If fewer people are counted, that means that our state will have fewer representatives to introduce bills, propose amendments, and serve on committees on our behalf.
Did you know: The outcome of this census will directly affect state votes in the U.S. Electoral College for the 2024 presidential election. Make your vote count by being counted today!
Having accurate census information can even bring jobs to your neighborhood. Businesses use demographical data collected in the census to determine where to operate. 

 Is My Information Safe?

The information that you provide in the census is confidential. Census Bureau employees must adhere to strict guidelines that ensure the safety of all respondents. According to the Frequently Asked Questions section of, “The penalty for wrongful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years or both. No law enforcement agency (not the DHS, ICE, FBI, or CIA) can access or use your personal information at any time.”

What is NOT on the Census?

So, what IS on the Census?

In order to alleviate some common fears, it helps to know what questions are actually being asked. Here is a summary of the information you will need to provide:

-Number of people in the household
-Whether you live in a house, apartment or mobile home
-Telephone Number
-Basic demographic information for each person in the household 

For a detailed look at the questions you can see a sample questionnaire on the official census website here.

How Can I Start?

It is now easier than ever to get counted. You have the option to respond by mail, phone, online, or even at any of the many Census Sites throughout Bergen County. Access the online census here today!

What If I Need Help?

If you have any questions while filling out your questionnaire, our friendly staff is more than happy
to help you complete your form. E-mail with any questions!  

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Mike Cargill Celebrates 20 Years with CHORE

This year Mike Cargill celebrates his 20th anniversary as a CHORE volunteer. We sat down with the 78-year old Bergen County resident to find out about his experience with the program.

After he retired in 1997, Mike was looking for a way to volunteer doing something that he loves. A jack-of-all-trades handyman, CHORE stood out to him because he enjoyed fixing things around his own house. He applied to the program, aced his interview, and the rest is history.

Throughout his many years of service he has been able to help over 21,000 seniors and disabled residents remain in their homes. Yet Mike insists that he gets even more satisfaction out of CHORE than the clients do. He says, “The best part for me is being able to improve the quality of life for someone instantly. It is very satisfying to be able to make a difference.”

He recalls a job that he did for two sisters, who were 98 and 96 years old. But don’t let those ages fool you. He’ll never forget how impressed he was by how active and funny the pair was, even noting that the two were spry enough to beat him down the stairs.

Another client that left a mark on him was a woman with braces on her legs. After completing repairs inside the residence, he and his fellow volunteers noticed that her front step was 8-inches high, making it difficult for her to enter her home. They built another 4-inch step to make the stairs more accessible. They were happy to go above and beyond what was asked of them to keep her safe.

In addition to his passion for volunteering, Mike is also an avid fisherman. Not content to just reel in the catch of the day, he finds the time to spread his love of fishing with the community. His fishing club, the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association, hosts free events to teach kids how to fish. Their annual “Hooked on the Hudson” at Ross’s Dock features a fishing competition, children’s activities, and displays from local environmental groups.  

Volunteers are the heart and soul of CHORE. Without them, many individuals would not have access to low-cost repairs that keep them in the homes that they love. We would like to sincerely thank Mike for his incredible 20 years of service!

When asked what he learned from being a CHORE volunteer, Mike had this to say: If you are prepared for your retirement, it is the best time of your life.