Six Places to Give Back in Bergen This Season

There’s always a lot of talk about “giving back” this time of year – and no, this isn’t a guide on how you can creatively rewrap and re-gift last year’s crappy Christmas presents. If your children somehow missed the memo about this being a season of giving (eyes glued to the ever-enticing toy ads on TV, check marks beside every single item in this week’s catalog), we’ve got six great ways to re-focus them on the real meaning of the holidays. 

Family Promise of Bergen
helps temporarily homeless families get back on their feet through housing and other solutions.  Families can band together and run one of the “Walk-In Dinners” by making and serving food for 150 needy guests, or teens ages 14 and up can join the organization’s Youth Council which provides young people ample opportunities to donate their time. (Family Promise of Bergen, 201-833-8009 for the walk- in dinners or contact Cindy Blinn at 201-796-5019 for the Youth Council)

Calling all equine-lovers!  The folks over at Three Sisters Horse Farm know a thing or two about how horse therapy can impact kids with special needs.  They’ve been experts in it since 2000 when Pony Power Therapies founder Dana Spett saw the benefits in her own daughter.  If you’re at least 14 years old, willing to commit to 20 hours of service and attend a mandatory training session, you can volunteer as a horse walker and help out with light grooming and barn-keeping.  (Pony Power Therapies, 1170 Ramapo Valley Rd, Mahwah, 201-934-1001)

At Habitat for Humanity of Bergen County young volunteers can fight homelessness with Habitat’s “Cookie Baking” project, by making cookies with Habitat Bergen’s special recipe and “house” cutters.  Older teens age 16 and up can register as a construction volunteer with no prior building experience and sign up for volunteer requests via the charity’s website.  (Habitat for Humanity of Bergen County, email

Shelter Our Sisters supports victims of domestic violence by running a large scale annual Holiday Gift Wrapping operation in six different Bergen locations.  Grab the whole family and commit for a minimum of two hours to be part of the solution.  (email for availability)

A school nurse realized a while ago that children who were receiving free lunches at school weren’t necessarily getting the proper nutrition over the weekend, and the Center for Food Action’s Weekend Snack Pack Program was then created.  Once you get a group together, kids can help assemble the snack packs for kids in need. Snack packs cost $4.50 each and they are looking for adults to help expand the program to local schools.(Center for Food Action, various locations, contact Jennifer Johnson-Rothman at

After hearing that donations at local food pantries were down, Ridgewood resident Brian Gatens mobilized his family and friends to make giving super-easy.  On the first Sunday of every month, Gatens asks volunteers to leave canned non-perishable items on their doorstep for collection- then picks up and delivers the needed items to CUMAC in Paterson. (Ridgewood Drive By Food Drive, If you live in the Ridgewood area and would like to participate or would like information on starting your own “drive-by food drive” email Brian Gatens at, next pickup is Sunday, December 4th)




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