Staying Connected

Unifying a community through volunteer work.

What makes a community thrive? One of the most important factors is how a community connects across differences, such as age, religion, race and ethnicity, ensuring that everyone is included.

For 45 years, the Volunteer Center of Bergen County has played a key role in forming connections that make Bergen County such a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. The organization strengthens the community by connecting people with opportunities to serve. It also operates direct service volunteer programs, builds the capacity for effective volunteering and participates in strategic partnerships that meet community needs.

The Volunteer Center’s work is funded through government grants, private foundations and individuals as well as fundraising events, such as the Bergen Bike Tour that takes place in September, Derby Day that takes place in May and the Bergen County Golf Classic that takes place in July. The Volunteer Center also connects people through its program operations.

Community Volunteer Services

The Volunteer Center’s Referral Service connects more than 100,000 people annually with volunteer opportunities at hundreds of nonprofit agencies in and around Bergen County. It helps individuals and groups, including students, school and community groups, and civic and faith-based organizations. The Hands on Guide to Volunteering, which is published by the Volunteer Center, has a comprehensive directory of volunteer opportunities and ideas for all sorts of volunteer projects. This information is also posted in searchable form at www.bergenvolunteers.org.

Every holiday season, the center connects willing donors with people in need through the All Wrapped Up program. Nonprofit organizations provide wish lists from needy families and individuals. These lists are matched with donors, who then shop for, wrap and deliver gifts to referring agencies. The agencies subsequently distribute the presents to the recipients. This is a great opportunity for donors’ families to spend quality time together while passing on important values, such as compassion and service for others. Each year, more than $400,000 in direct assistance is generated to help more than 4,000 people.

RSVP is a federally sponsored program that helps volunteers ages 55 and older respond to community needs by putting their time and talent to work through nonprofit agencies. The Nonprofit Resource Center also provides topical training sessions that help nonprofit agencies better engage volunteers and deliver services through sound management practices. And the Neighbor Academy offers introductory courses covering the basics of nonprofit administration. It’s ideal for start-ups, neighborhood associations, and faith-based and grass-roots organizations.

The Volunteer Center leads the Bergen County Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster (VOAD), serving as a communications link between first responders, such as the Office of Emergency Management and the American Red Cross, and the network of nonprofit organizations that prepare for and respond to disasters.
One of the Volunteer Center’s most dynamic programs is Bergen LEADS, a year-long community leadership and learning experience for adults who live and/or work in Bergen County. The interactive curriculum addresses critical issues facing Bergen County, allowing participants to understand the issues as they develop their leadership style. A major component is community trusteeship, when participants learn to put their newfound knowledge to work in affecting positive change. The seminar director is former Bergen County executive William “Pat” Schuber.

The Business Volunteer Services department helps area businesses seeking to engage their employees in service activities. Through the award-winning Northern New Jersey Business Volunteer Council, nearly 40 area businesses with 35,000 employees participate in strategic initiatives that meet the needs of children and families. Since 2000, Business Volunteer Services has generated more than $1 million in resources while fostering a collaboration between member companies and community organizations.

Through its Direct Service Programs, the Volunteer Center trains, supervises and connects volunteers with people in need. The center’s Mentoring Programs offer two programs that recruit, train and screen volunteers as well as provide ongoing supervision and support to adults who serve as mentors in one-on-one relationships.

Volunteers in Protective Services (VIPS) are caring mentors, friends and role models to abused, neglected or socially isolated children. VIPS help kids to see a positive future and hopefully break the cycle of abuse and neglect.

The Mentoring Moms program provides friends and role models to isolated and overwhelmed mothers who need guidance when it comes to parenting and life skills. Mentors spend time with mothers who have difficulty coping with parenting, managing households, providing for their children and overcoming other obstacles that impede family stability.

The Chore Service boasts crews of volunteers who bestow minor home repairs that help the elderly and disabled people remain safe in their homes. By performing the minor but essential repairs that clients can neither do for themselves nor get anyone else to do for them, and by bringing a bit of the outside world in to those who are isolated and lonely, the Chore Service keeps many vulnerable residents connected to the community.

For further information, call the Volunteer Center of Bergen County at (201)489-9454 or visit  www.bergenvolunteers.org.