Say Hello to Juanita Cook!

Juanita has been a motivated volunteer with Jersey Cares since 2017 but started her journey with us in 2013. In 2018, Juanita decided to take on the role of a Project Coordinator and become a part of the Jersey Cares family leading many different volunteer opportunities throughout the state. When asked what sparked her interest in Jersey Cares, Juanita stated: 

“Joining Jersey Cares was very unintentional for me.  In the early Spring of 2013, my church organized groups of volunteers to help local families in Sayreville clean-up their flooded homes after Hurricane Sandy.  Experiencing the damage brought back memories of losing my childhood home to a fire at the age of eight. Each bag of debris was a reminder of what it was like to start over from nothing but the clothes on your back.  From that day on I had a desire to do more and help those in my community. Around the same time, I joined the churches’ nursery ministry and still serve in a monthly rotation to provide childcare during Sunday services.  I also became active in another church ministry called ‘Love Your Neighbor’.  Twice a year we visited local senior communities in Monroe to assist seniors that had contacted the church to help them with activities like yard work, spring cleaning, minor repairs, etc. I maintained my monthly nursery commitment while working and attending a master’s program full-time, but after graduating in 2016 that desire to be more active in my community reappeared.  I felt obligated to dedicate a bigger portion of my time to doing more volunteer work.  After googling “volunteer opportunities in New Jersey”, I came across the Jersey Cares website.

Since then, my involvement with Jersey Cares has been a gradual progression.  In 2017, I sporadically searched the calendar and tried different volunteer categories.  Each time I attended an opportunity I had a strong sense of purpose and enjoyed coming together with kindred souls that also prioritized helping others.  Those things peaked my interest to return.  In 2018, it became intentional.  I set a personal goal to volunteer an average of one hour per month or 12 hours for the year through Jersey Cares, in addition to my monthly nursery rotation at church.  I am not sure how I ended up logging 21 hours, but it’s safe to say I achieved that goal. For 2019, my goal is to complete 50 hours through Jersey Cares.”

Throughout the years, Juanita has been extremely active both within her personal life and within Jersey Cares. In between her hobbies of traveling to eight different countries, spending time with family and friends, reading, and dancing, Juanita makes the effort to dedicate her time to leading several different volunteer opportunities offered at Jersey Cares. Some of those opportunities include Tutor and Mentor in Martinsville, Marketplace in New Brunswick, Computer Essentials in Elizabeth, Homework Helpers in Elizabeth, Marketplace in East Brunswick, Caring Closet in Hightstown and many more.

When asked about her dedication to volunteering, Juanita remarked:

“I consider volunteering one of my hobbies. Whenever it occurs to me that I have a free weekend or a large amount of free time I go to the opportunities calendar and see what I can get involved in. Volunteering is a great reminder to never take anything for granted”

When asked what she loved most about leading different opportunities, Joanne noted:

“Leading different events gives me opportunities to meet new people and learn more about the different issues facing our community. The opportunities I enjoy most are Marketplace in Jamesburg and Computer Essentials in Elizabeth. The team that operates Marketplace in Jamesburg is phenomenal!  They are extremely passionate about serving others and it is truly inspiring.  I hope to be able to stay committed for as long as the individuals there.  It is also astounding to see the amount of youth volunteers that attend every month, in and outside of Jersey Cares. At Computer Essentials in Elizabeth, I am grateful to be able to pass along my knowledge to the courageous individuals that seek their services. Hopefully, I am making a meaningful contribution to them, creating great opportunities for themselves and their families. Also, I recently attended Bingo Time in Bridgewater for the second time.  Now, I cannot stop thinking about the sweet residents and the amount of joy it brought them to have us there.  I think I will make this a regular commitment now.”

As a Project Coordinator with a lot of experience in different spaces, Juanita advises new volunteers to: “Just go for it!  It is not complicated or demanding to be a Project Coordinator. As a P.C. I aim to provide a high level of service to the contracting organizations and meaningful experiences for the volunteers.  I believe that having an engaged Project Coordinator present at opportunities creates a better experience for everyone involved. I encourage everyone to do it, especially if they frequently participate in an opportunity.”

Inspired by Juanita’s dedication to leading volunteer opportunities?  Become a Project Coordinator today and begin changing the lives of others today. Also, check out our Monthly Calendar to find the project that interests you.

Planting Seeds of Hope

At Plant It Forward in Newark, Planting Seeds of Hope is working hard to provide community food access as well as increasing both economic and educational opportunities for local residents. In the heart of Newark’s South Ward, Emilio and his team are working tirelessly to provide fresh and healthy food to the local community and are dedicated to empowering local residents to take back control of their local food system and health.

Planting Seeds of Hope is more than just planting and growing healthy food, it serves as the opportunity to educate and provide deeper relationships within the community. The gardens and programs are meant to build a cohesive, integrated community around the common bonds of healthy local food. 

The goals of Planting Seeds of Hope are:

H – Health – Environmental, public and individual wellness

O – Open communities – Intentionally inclusive and integrated places

P – People development – Ample growth opportunities for youth and adults

E – Entrepreneurship – A spirit of innovation and creating shared prosperity method

Open to all local residents and visitors as a place to assist in volunteering or act as a classroom to learn more, the farm and community center serve its purpose! With the assistance of volunteers and Project Coordinators assisting in maintaining and creating planting beds, planting, digging, watering, weeding, and composting, Planting Seeds of Hope is well on its way to kicking off summer with some fresh fruits and vegetables.

Interested in joining this team of passionate and hard-working volunteers who are dedicated to local farming? Become a Project Coordinator today and take the lead in transforming this Newark neighborhood into a Healthy, Open community where People develop and Entrepreneurship flourishes.

Making Time to Make A Difference

With school back in session, we understand that it can be hard to balance both academics and community service. New schedules, new courses, it’s a lot to take in! For Jersey Cares Project Coordinator and Rutgers New Brunswick Senior, Dominick DiCarlo, civic engagement is a vital part of his college experience.Dominick DiCarlo-September 2018

Looking for ways to make a positive difference during his free time, Jersey Cares provided both the tools and platform necessary to do just that. “I started volunteering with Jersey Cares because I wanted to become more involved in my community, both at home and at school. My desire to volunteer increased significantly while in college, specifically in the areas of hunger and homelessness, due to the surprisingly high level of students at my university and residents in the community who were food insecure.”

According to Dominick, community service is “a very important, if not THE most important, thing to be involved in outside of school work”. He attributes civic engagement both to his current success as well as his personal fulfillment. “Service blends real-world experience with people, which can be applied to almost any job you could think of, with tons of other skills, like the ability to improvise, work in a team, and communicate. You grow these skills, all while supporting others who need help, making you feel empowered as you’ve helped make a positive impact on other people’s lives”.

In fact, when they aren’t hitting the books, Dominick and his peers serve on the executive board of the flagship Rutgers Cares club, an organization that connects Rutgers New Brunswick students with local Jersey Cares opportunities. Aside from their participation in recurring Jersey Cares opportunities, the club conducts mini service opportunities, and work with other Rutgers organizations to coordinate collection drives. Last year alone, they collected over 250 pounds of food for the Rutgers Student Food Pantry and grocery bags of toiletries for the Jersey Cares First-Night Kits!

While his ability to manage service on top of school work may appear superhuman, for Dominick, it’s all about discipline and time management.

” You have to decide that you want to volunteer early, and build it into your schedule, so that you can still have time for work, as well as leisure time to relax. By planning ahead, you ensure that you can successfully balance your school work and volunteer work, and leisure time without being overwhelmed or sacrificing one for the others. It’s also good to start off with a light volunteer schedule and then progressively add more events. When you’re eager to start volunteering, you want to be as active as possible, but you also want to make sure not to overload your schedule, which may stress you out or cause you to back out of some of the events. For example, last school year I volunteered with a food pantry every-other Friday for the first semester, and then bumped my volunteering to every Friday.”

So, if the new school year has you skeptical about continuing community service, take a page from Dominick’s book and start off slow. Once you find an opportunity that you really connect with, making time to make a difference becomes a piece of cake. Head to our volunteer opportunity calendar to check out upcoming opportunities near you!

Be A Shero

By Siara Clemente, Jersey Cares Program Manager, ReadyCorps AmeriCorps Member

she·ro

ˈshirō/

noun

  1. a woman, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

 

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Siara Clemente, Jersey Cares Program Coordinator, ReadyCorps AmeriCorps Member

To be a shero, one does not need to save the world, but rather, simply make a difference. Here at Jersey Cares, it is our goal to enable average individuals to conduct heroic gestures. These gestures may include sorting items at a foodbank or mentoring youth. The fact is, as long as a difference is made in someone’s life, and an impact is left, the mission has been accomplished. It’s important to remember that although a difference may not been made on the whole population, a difference was in fact made for at least one individual, and to that person, our sheroes appear to be wonder women.

 

This all being said, I’m excited to report a new opportunity available for sheroes, as well as their friends and family. Jersey Cares is working with the American Red Cross to help conduct the New Jersey Region Home Fire Campaign. Volunteers who attend are broken up into teams and provided a specific area to canvass, in which they provide residents with fire safety information and help the local fire departments install smoke alarms, should they be needed. These events will be occurring all over the state of New Jersey, and are open to anyone who would like to raise awareness, as fires are the most common natural disaster.

I was fortunate enough to attend my first fire safety canvassing event in Lambertville, New Jersey, located in Hunterdon County. I was placed on a team of four, and my team alone reached about 137 homes. As a whole, volunteers canvassed a total of 765 homes, and had approximately 86 alarms installed by the local fire department.

It’s important to know that not every family has the income to have smoke alarms installed on their own, and it’s even more important to be aware that more than half of parents do not have a designated meeting place in case of disaster. Families need to prepare now, for what may or may not occur in the future. This is a call to all parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, families, and friends; be a shero, be a hero. Learn what you need to know, and share it with others. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Volunteer.

For more information regarding the Red Cross Fire Safety Campaign, as well as dates and times of events, please contact Siara Clemente, the Ready Corps Program Coordinator.

Red Cross Fire Safety Volunteer Event Registration

 

City Spotlight: Trenton

As a response to all of the amazing volunteer work being done across New Jersey, the Jersey Cares City Spotlight will showcase exceptional civic engagement weekly in a specific New Jersey community.

This week, Jersey Cares City Spotlight features New Jersey’s capital city – Trenton!

Trenton is a city full of history! It is known as the site of George Washington’s first victory in the War of Independence. Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1766 and surprised the British in a battle which resulted in a victory for the Continental Army. Trenton also briefly served as the capital of the new United States of America, during November and December 1784.

While Trenton holds the distinction of being a historical city, it is also a very special place for Jersey Cares. Trenton has amazing volunteers and hosts several Jersey Cares service projects!

This past year, volunteers in Trenton distributed 735 coats to five agencies through the Jersey Cares Annual Coat Drive. Additionally, Bank of America corporate volunteers recently gave back to a Trenton elementary school. Almost 30 individuals spent over 100 hours painting line games, building picnic tables, planting flowers and painting canvas murals. In total, this helped to serve 413 children!

This past Jersey Cares Day, volunteer efforts amounted to over 150 service hours in Trenton. During this time, 40 flower pots were planted, 14 canvas murals, five planter murals, and line games were painted. At the end of this busy day in Trenton, 413 kids were served!

Trenton is not the only city in Mercer County who has dedicated volunteers! In fact, through the Jersey Cares Volunteer Opportunity Calendar, Mercer County volunteers meet the needs of 3 non-profit agencies. On a weekly basis, Jersey Cares volunteers can be found assisting individuals with finding employment by collecting, sorting and packaging  clothing at Caring Closet in Lawrence. Mercer County volunteers also use their intelligence to help tutor children at Kiddy Care in Lawrence.

Celebrate this amazing, New Jersey city by continuing Trenton’s commitment to volunteerism by finding volunteer opportunities at www.jerseycares.org!

Volunteers show off their finished line game!

Volunteers show off their finished line game!