Who is Care of the Park?

Who is Care of the Park will be a recurring series aimed at painting a picture of the people that make the program possible. From star volunteers to Park staff, this series will shine a light on who is Care of the Park and why they give back.

Who is Care of the Park-October 2018

Emily Guo is a high school senior attending The Lawrenceville School. Passionate about service and sustainability, Emily reached out to Jersey Cares about volunteering at Essex County Branch Brook Park and the Care of the Park program. For 6 weeks, Emily volunteered as a Peer Leader, working with 11 high school students working for Care of the Park as part of the Summer Youth Employment Program. Below is an interview with Emily discussing her experiences as a Care of the Park volunteer:

Why do you volunteer?

“Before high school I never did any kind of volunteering. I really felt unmotivated. I always had an interest in sustainability and decided to search for those opportunities in high school. Once I started volunteering, being able to help others helped give me a purpose and motivation. I could give back to my community and have meaningful experiences, so it was kind of a win-win situation for me.”

What compelled you to volunteer with Care of the Park?

“Really it lined up with my own personal interests since I’ve always been passionate about the environment. I didn’t know much about Care of the Park or the Summer Youth Employment Program initially, but as I learned more I was excited. I was looking forward to working with people my age who had a shared mindset for making a difference. Doing all that while working in a beautiful park was just a bonus.”

What was your favorite moment volunteering in the park?

“It’s really hard to pick a specific moment. The first week of the program was awkward with the Park Ambassadors not really knowing each other. It wasn’t easy to get them to socialize or speak up, but as they got more comfortable working in the park and with each other that all changed. I’d say my favorite moment was when we came into work and I could see them being comfortable with each other and meaningful relationships being built. It made working together even more fun and the experience in the park even better.”

What was your biggest takeaway from your volunteer experience?

“The biggest thing I learned was understanding the perspective of others. My background was so different from the other Park Ambassadors and being able to learn about them helped me branch out my own views of the world. Learning about their passions and what mattered to each of them really opened my eyes. I found it both refreshing and inspiring.”

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about volunteering?  

“I’d say you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s hard to put it into words what exactly I gained, but volunteering has been such a transformative experience. I could see the growth not just in me, but the other volunteers around me. You get all that and get to make a positive impact on a community. Walking through the park and seeing people enjoy the places I worked in was so worthwhile. You may not see the difference yourself, but people in the community definitely will. And that will make the few hours you spend volunteering totally worth it.”

What does Care of the Park mean to you?

“It was really a transformative experience. I went in there looking to use my skills to contribute and make a difference. But working with Care of the Park, the most valuable part was working with the volunteers and getting to know each of them. Working with our volunteer leaders (Jersey Cares staff and the Rutgers Master Gardeners leading the projects) I felt like they cared about getting to know us and really humanized the experience. I was fortunate enough to be able to help others, but I also gained so much from the people I worked with. To me, Care of the Park is the great people you get to work with.”

 

 

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!

Staff Spotlight-Meet Kathleen!

kaht

Meet Kathleen, or Kat, for short. She is one of the newest members of the Corporate Service team at Jersey Cares, but after getting to know her, you wouldn’t think it. When she’s not coordinating volunteer events, Kat enjoys painting (she’s good too—check her out here), trivia, and spending time with her family and her dog, Irwin. Last month we sat down with Kat and got to know her a little better!

Which of your projects are you most proud of?

“L’Oréal — I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received from my team…[and] just seeing the difference the volunteers made at the two schools we worked with on that day gave me such a sense of pride.”

 

Which is your favorite Jersey Cares collection drive? Why?

“The Coat Drive is my favorite because I get to work with members of the community for our sort-off day…and I love experiencing how involved they are willing to be for such a great cause.”

When planning a Corporate Service project, what is the most exciting part of the process?

“I really enjoy working with the volunteers and the anticipation of knowing how they will be impacted by their service; it’s always a great reminder of how important their work is to the agencies we partner with and I really enjoy being a part of that.”

What attracted you to work for Jersey Cares?

“I really enjoy that I would get to see from start to finish the impact that volunteers make in the lives of people and community-based organizations and schools. I love being a part of that kind of change.”

Finally…what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

“That’s easy! Chocolate Peanut Butter!”

Take 5 With ServiceWorks – Marc Wolensky

 

In the spirit of National Volunteer Week (#NVW2016), join us as we celebrate service. This week we will highlight volunteers who are Success Coaches supporting our ServiceWorks program in Newark. NJ. These inspiring individuals are paving the way and leading our Scholars to the onramps they need to lead a fulfilling life. ServiceWorks is a three-year, nationwide initiative that uses community engagement and volunteer service to help underserved youth and young adults develop the skills they need to prepare for college and careers. Jersey Cares is one of ten nationwide host sites for this initiative facilitated through a grant received by Points of Light and funded by Citi Foundation through their “Pathways to Progress, a three-year $50 million initiative to unlock economic opportunity for 100,000 low-income youth in 15 cities across the United States.” If you would like to learn more about joining this remarkable team of passionate volunteer leaders, please contact Thomas Dougherty.

Take 5 With ServiceWorks

Marc Wolensky - Jersey Cares - ServiceWorks - Success CoachandSkills Trainer 2016Name:

Marc Wolensky

At which ServiceWorks site are you a volunteer?

Rutgers University

How long have you been a ServiceWorks volunteer?

6 months

Why did you decide to volunteer with ServiceWorks? 

I decided to become a volunteer with ServiceWorks because I believe in the vision, and saw how the program could be very helpful to today’s youth. I compared it to when I was a college freshman, and how being a part of something like this could have been beneficial to me. I am a Certified Health & Wellness Coach, and I originally volunteered to be a Success Coach. But then as I learned about the Skills Trainer position, and the need that ServiceWorks had for them, I felt compelled to do more because I knew that my life’s experiences may be able to help others in their growth, development, and outlooks on life and their futures.

In what ways have you seen Service Scholars grow and develop because of ServiceWorks?

Service Scholars have grown in many ways and developed many new skills because of their involvement in ServiceWorks. I believe that everyone was impacted, even Service Scholars who were not always active in the program. Many of them expressed fears in the beginning about public speaking. It was incredible to see how the Service Scholars began to gain more confidence in themselves, and how it impacted their ability to speak in front of the class, interact with peers, as well as community members within their Capstone Project planning. I think the Service Scholars certainly learned new skills, but even more importantly, they grew confidence in themselves for performing certain activities that they were nervous about, and that can impact them in several other areas of their lives, over the course of their entire lives.

What has been your most memorable or inspiring moment as a ServiceWorks volunteer?

Picking only one is hard! But the feeling deep down that I impacted someone, and made a difference in someone’s life feels incredible! I would like to share a few moments. In my initial meeting with two Service Scholars as a group, seeing the tensions go down and comfortability go up in that session was memorable. Hearing them talking on the way out about “how that was cool”, made me feel like I was doing a good service. Another moment was when I was working with my Service Scholars on visions and goal setting, and one in particular went from being skeptical to being involved and loving it. To hear how she constantly thinks about it now, and is setting goals in more effective ways is truly inspiring to me, because I know that I was able to help her, and she is better off because of knowing me. Same goes for my Skills classes. Many of the students became more comfortable as the Modules went on, and it was inspiring to share with them what I know…and I feel that they had mutual respect for what I had to say, and that they knew I was there to help them. I will never forget my time working as a Success Coach or Skills Trainer, and memories and inspiring moments that went along with it will stay with me forever.

How has being a ServiceWorks volunteer impacted you personally?

I have grown personally in many ways since volunteering with ServiceWorks. As a coach, I was able to develop my skills in new ways. As a Skills Trainer, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and do some things I never thought I could (or would) do, such as plan and lead a college level class! It helped grow my own confidence in myself in many areas of my life, and helped me to become a more Self-Compassionate person. Being able to gain the respect of the Service Scholars, and them knowing that I was there for them…and nothing else…truly made me feel like I was making a difference in the world. And that feeling has impacted me in many more ways that words can describe. Also making new personal relationships with my peers, including my VISTA has impacted me in many ways. I am truly grateful for being able to work with such a great partner, where we were able to truly bring out the best in each other.

In three words or less, describe what it’s like to be a ServiceWorks volunteer.

Helpful, Empathetic, Empowering

 

 

Take 5 With ServiceWorks – Barbara Allende

In the spirit of National Volunteer Week (#NVW2016), join us as we celebrate service. This week we will highlight volunteers who are Success Coaches supporting our ServiceWorks program in Newark. NJ. These inspiring individuals are paving the way and leading our Scholars to the onramps they need to lead a fulfilling life. ServiceWorks is a three-year, nationwide initiative that uses community engagement and volunteer service to help underserved youth and young adults develop the skills they need to prepare for college and careers. Jersey Cares is one of ten nationwide host sites for this initiative facilitated through a grant received by Points of Light and funded by Citi Foundation through their “Pathways to Progress, a three-year $50 million initiative to unlock economic opportunity for 100,000 low-income youth in 15 cities across the United States.” If you would like to learn more about joining this remarkable team of passionate volunteer leaders, please contact Thomas Dougherty.

Take 5 with a ServiceWorks

Barbara Allende - Jersey Cares - ServiceWorks - Success Coach - 2016Name

Barbara V. Allende

At which ServiceWorks site are you a volunteer?

Rutgers and Youth Build

How long have you been a ServiceWorks volunteer?

6 months

Why did you decide to volunteer with ServiceWorks?

I wanted to help first generation college students ease their transition from high school to college and provide guidance to them on navigating their new environment. When I was a college student I remember feeling overwhelmed and wishing I had someone to talk to that could relate.

In what ways have you seen Service Scholars grow and develop because of ServiceWorks?

I have 4 Scholars, and have developed different relationships with them. During our conversations I see how they have adjusted to college and work life and it’s been fun to watch how they blossom into adulthood. There have been growing pains for them all, but going through those pains is how they develop and grow. I’m really proud of all of them.

What has been your most memorable or inspiring moment as a ServiceWorks volunteer?

I had breakfast with one of my scholars, and during our conversation discovered we have many similarities. We were both very young mothers, we both spent time in foster care, we both had similar difficult periods of adversity in our childhood. And during our conversation we bonded. I looked and her and saw myself, and she looked at me and saw what she could become. I’m not a crier, but we both cried during that meeting and we have been close since.

How has being a ServiceWorks volunteer impacted you personally?

I have typically done ‘hands off’ volunteering; volunteering that didn’t require developing close relationships, like fundraising or coordinating groups to collect donations for the homeless, things like that. I am not a person that gets too close to people. I realize now that I have a lot to offer in a mentor relationship and that it’s OK to bond with people, because I can give guidance to someone who is experiencing the same adversities I did in my life. If I can help someone through young adulthood and give them advice to make their life a little easier, then it’s all worth it.

In three words or less, describe what it’s like to be a ServiceWorks volunteer.

Emotional. Hectic. Fulfilling.

Take 5 With Service Works – Cheryl Turman

In the spirit of National Volunteer Week (#NVW2016), join us as we celebrate service. This week we will highlight volunteers who are Success Coaches supporting our ServiceWorks program in Newark. NJ. These inspiring individuals are paving the way and leading our Scholars to the onramps they need to lead a fulfilling life. ServiceWorks is a three-year, nationwide initiative that uses community engagement and volunteer service to help underserved youth and young adults develop the skills they need to prepare for college and careers. Jersey Cares is one of ten nationwide host sites for this initiative facilitated through a grant received by Points of Light and funded by Citi Foundation through their “Pathways to Progress, a three-year $50 million initiative to unlock economic opportunity for 100,000 low-income youth in 15 cities across the United States.” If you would like to learn more about joining this remarkable team of passionate volunteer leaders, please contact Thomas Dougherty.

Take 5 With ServiceWorks

Volunteer Cheryl Truman - Jersey Cares - ServiceWorks - 2016 - Success CoachName:

Cheryl Turman

At which ServiceWorks site are you a volunteer?

Rutgers University

How long have you been a ServiceWorks volunteer?

5 months

 

Why did you decide to volunteer with ServiceWorks? 

It was an opportunity to continue to use my professional skills in counseling and career advisement in another forum.

In what ways have you seen Service Scholars grow and develop because of ServiceWorks?

I am so excited about the career potential I have seen developed in two of my mentees. They actually had light bulb moments as we discussed ways to gain experience and insight into their chosen professions.

What has been your most memorable or inspiring moment as a ServiceWorks volunteer?

When one of my mentees thought outside of the box, about gaining experience and utilized his contacts at the college.

How has being a ServiceWorks volunteer impacted you personally?

I felt like I made a difference in a young person’s college experience.

In three words or less, describe what it’s like to be a ServiceWorks volunteer.

Meaningful, Insightful and Educational

When I Grow Up

This month at Jersey Cares we are celebrating Women’s History Month by inviting some of our friends to share their thoughts and experiences on the women who have inspired them.  Today we feature a piece by Kristen Coppola, Corporate Service Manager.

Kristen Coppola

Kristen Coppola, Jersey Cares Corporate Service Manager

During a month that honors successful, trailblazing female figures, it is almost impossible to pick just one inspirational woman in my life. So, I decided to reference a third grade assignment: “Who do you want to be like when you grow up?” At the time I think I said Sporty Spice to seem cool, but today my answer is surprisingly not a British Pop Star.

 

When I grow up I want to be like my mother. Of course I could go on and on about her inspirational attributes, but a specific moment of weakness is ingrained in my memory. One day we were having a conversation – the kind when you start to analyze every aspect of your life – and she asked “When I die, what will I be remembered by? I haven’t done anything significant.” I empathized with her for a minute, but it soon dawned on me that if she were to die, her friends and family would mourn her infinitely more than an iconic figure they have never met. In this moment, I realized you don’t have to change the world to be remembered, and you don’t have to touch thousands of lives to make a significant impact.

Sharon Coppola1

Sharon Coppola, Kristen’s mom and inspiration

I went into the non-profit field in hopes that I could have the same affect on one person’s life as my mom has had on mine. I’m not sure I can ever be like my mom when I ‘grow up’, but I know a good place to start, and that is to volunteer. Volunteer to help a colleague with their work, volunteer to hold open the door, volunteer to donate a coat for a person in need. Jersey Cares has limitless opportunities to change a person’s life, just by becoming a volunteer. So next time you find yourself in a conversation – the kind when you start to analyze every aspect of your life – I hope you remember women like my mom, and realize you can always be an inspiration to someone.