9 Ways to Volunteer in Bergen County NJ

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There are turkeys to stuff, pies to make and football games to watch. There are gifts to buy, cookies to eat and Hallmark Channel movies to watch. But in the midst of all this fun and hubbub, wouldn’t it be nice to take a moment (or a morning or a day) in service to others? Don’t know where to start? Here are 9 Ways to Volunteer in Bergen County NJ and get the family involved too! 


Want to show your kids what compassion in the face of a crisis looks like? Consider donating food to the Father English Community Center Food Pantry which, on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017 was destroyed by fire. All the food being stored at the pantry was ruined and will take months to replace. The pantry is asking for emergency food donations to help re-stock their shelves in order to continue to serve the approximately 4,500 working poor families who rely on their assistance each month. For more information, email Glen McCall at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Ridgewood, gmccall@olmcridgewood.com or drop donations between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm at the OLMC Youth Ministry Office, 1 Passaic Street, Ridgewood.


Got teens or a big group? Sign up with a group of families and friends to make and serve food for up to 150 people at a “Walk-in Dinner” hosted nightly by Family Promise of Bergen County at the Heath & Human Services Center in Hackensack. Family Promise of Bergen County provides shelter and support for working families who become homeless. Kids can also participate in the Houses for Change program in which they decorate a cardboard house then use it to collect spare change and monetary donations. Teens can join the Youth Council, a group of high school students who assist with programs at Family Promise including becoming camp counselors for the summer Camp Lots of Fun. Families can assist local congregations in providing meals, company and fellowship for homeless families who are staying overnight. For more information, email familypromiseyouthcouncil@gmail.com or Volunteer Director Margo Heller at mheller@bergenfamilypromise.org for more information.



Ever wonder what the kids on the free and reduced lunch program through their school do for food on the weekend? Without the ongoing Weekend Snack Pack Program at the Center for Food Action, they’d probably go hungry. Snack Packs include enough healthy, well-rounded food to keep little bellies full until they get back to school on Monday. Want to help assemble these packs? Your group can donate funding to cover the items in the packs, then meet to assemble the packs. Assembly occurs regularly at locations around Bergen County. Or your group can collect the listed items, assemble the packs offsite and deliver completed packs to the closest Center for Food Action location. To find out when and where you can help, contact Lori Oliff at 201.569-1804 x.16 or lorioliff@cfanj.org.


Want to teach your kids about giving back but don’t want to leave home to do it? How about coloring a picture or two to be distributed to senior citizens, our troops overseas, or anyone who needs a smile? Color A Smile provides you with the coloring sheets. All you have to do is color (crayons and ink please – no glitter), sign and mail your masterpieces to Color A Smile and they’ll take care of the rest. Doing something nice for someone AND distract your kids with a fun project while you take a shower in peace? Priceless! For more information or for additional volunteer opportunities, email info@colorasmile.org.


Got an animal lover? Teens 14 and older who are willing to commit to at least 20 hours of service and attend a mandatory training session can help out with Pony Power Therapies, which offers therapeutic riding lessons and non-riding programs to individuals with a broad spectrum of physical and developmental disabilities, as well as those dealing with trauma and loss. Volunteers will be trained as horse walkers and will help out with light grooming and barn-keeping. Visit the website to complete a Volunteer Inquiry form or call 201-934-1001.


Cleaning the playroom but don’t want to toss all those perfectly good Little People and Legos? Second Chance Toys rescues and recycles gently used plastic toys to be redistributed to organizations that work with children in need. Gather the family and decide which toys your little ones want to pass along and share. Woody and Buzz would be proud! Toys will be collected at Kean University in Union, NJ between November 21st and December 13th. For more information, email henryem@kean.edu.


Feeling a little fairy godmother-ish? Sign up to be one of Frosty’s Friends on the Jersey Cares website. You’ll receive a letter from a child living in a shelter or a transitional housing situation telling you what gift they wish for this holiday season. You grant their wish by purchasing the gift, wrapping it and mailing it or dropping it off by December 6th with the Jersey Cares non-profit partner working with your child. Or, make a stack of outgrown coats and find a drop off location near you during Jersey Cares’ Annual Coat Drive. Call 973-533-1993 for more information about the coat drive.



Want to make it real? Remind your kids that not every child gets a week-long birthday celebration with family, schoolmates, friends, gifts, gifts, more gifts and cake. Then help kids in need celebrate their special day by assembling a birthday bag through the Social Service Association. The youngest clients of the SSA (10 years and under) receive gifts, wrapping, and the makings for a cake in a festive bag. Or, assemble holiday gifts for school aged clients. For more information, call 201.444.2980 or email administrator@ssaridgewood.org.


Need some options? The Bergen Volunteer Center’s got you covered with their All Wrapped Up program for the holidays. Adopt-a-Family program and you will be matched with either a large or a small family. You are asked to provide supermarket gift cards, an article of clothing and a toy or toys for the kids. Or, choose the Heart-to-Heart program in which you choose to adopt an individual – you choose either a child, an adult, a senior or a disabled individual. Visit the website for more information or to register or call 201-489-9454.


And, if your teen needs to know about volunteer opportunities in the area, have them check out the Givety app. Givety helps teens schedule their volunteer hours, find friends, and track their time. By emphasizing the social aspects of volunteering and bringing varied and diverse opportunities in which to do so, Givety will motivate students to get involved! Available for iOS and Android.

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