Jersey Cares Day: Team Spotlight on Project Save Our Shore

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The Project Save Our Shore crew at a Jersey Cares Coat Drive sorting project.

When given the task of their Senior Service Learning Project, four Colts Neck High School students went above and beyond by creating ‘Project Save Our Shore’. Their mission in continuing Hurricane Sandy relief efforts through volunteerism and fundraising has proven very successful. In conjunction with Jersey Cares, they’ve repaired schools that were flooded and damaged due to the storm, planted dune grass which helps stabilize beach dunes against future storms, and cleared debris and garbage off beaches that were a mess after Sandy.

Up next on their agenda: Jersey Cares Day! Because Jersey Cares Day features many Sandy-related projects along the Jersey Shore, the Colts Neck foursome are a perfect fit for one of the many teams signed up to rebuild communities along the coastline. Project Save Our Shore’s revitalization and fundraising efforts encompass exactly what Jersey Cares Day is all about: “A Brand New Jersey”. Although it’s been roughly a year and half since Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, Project Save Our Shore understands that the work to revitalize the state is far from over, and they need your help!  If you’d like to join their aide in rebuilding New Jersey on May 3rd for Jersey Cares Day, you can visit our website, www.jerseycaresday.org, to sign up!

 

 

 

Jersey Cares Staff Gives Back for National Volunteer Week

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As the icy cold of winter fades behind us, we look forward to a spring of warmth and beauty. The team who manages the Volunteer Opportunity Calendar joined in the fun of National Volunteer Week by giving back on one of our outdoor projects, Mobile Meals in Elizabeth. They sorted food and distributed to residents of the local Elizabeth community. Everyone was in high spirits with the cool weather and not a drop of rain to put a damper on the day. They served more than 70 people over the course of the four hour project and distributed much needed necessities such as milk, bread, and vegetables.

Kat Clayton, Program Coordinator and Americorps Member, said, “We had the opportunity to get to know Michelle Meacham, the energized Project Coordinator for Mobile Meals in Elizabeth, as well as other calendar projects. Michelle is one of those volunteers whose leadership skills make our programs possible and it was such a pleasure to see her in action!”

During National Volunteer Week, there are 61 projects scheduled to mobilize 328 volunteers who are ready to be the change in the Volunteer Opportunity Calendar Program. There are also an additional 10 projects engaging 1,150 volunteers in the Corporate Service Program,  mobilizing teams of employees giving back together.

Meet the Monthly Calendar Program Team!

ImageWe are always asking volunteers and agency partners to tell us more about their experiences with Jersey Cares, so we decided to share more about the people behind the magic in our office. Meet the Jersey Cares Monthly Calendar Program Team! This five person team, led by Thomas Dougherty, manages hundreds of different volunteer projects every month in the Monthly Calendar.

Thomas Dougherty has been with Jersey Cares a little over 2.5 years and was previously with The League, overseeing youth service initiatives. He left the corporate world to bring meaningful change to New Jersey communities and in addition to his position at Jersey Cares, volunteers regularly on his personal time as well. Thomas has been working very closely with the Volunteer Reception Centers in Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic Counties on Hurricane Sandy Relief.

Charlotte Kerwick, Volunteer Relations Manager, returned to New Jersey over a year ago after living and working in London. Charlotte focuses on new project development with nonprofit agencies and is currently focusing on expanding the Monthly Calendar Program into more New Jersey counties.

Troy Lee, Patricia Correa and Jasmine Hamlette are all serving a one year Americorps term working on the Monthly Calendar Program. Troy, who holds a Masters in Public Administration and previously worked at the University of Phoenix, focusses mostly on volunteer recruitment. Patricia Correa, who speaks fluent Spanish and has extensive experience as an interpreter and Spanish Teacher, is serving as the Volunteer Relations Coordinator and manages all volunteer needs for the Monthly Calendar Program.

Jasmine Hamlette, a graduate of Montclair State University and native of Newark, previously worked at TD Bank and manages the Project Coordinator Program – the volunteers who lead Monthly Calendar Projects.  Jasmine leads Project Coordinator Trainings and matches those volunteer leaders with service projects.

This spectacular 5 person Monthly Calendar Program Team can also be found out and about recruiting at volunteer fairs, helping out on projects and brainstorming new volunteer activities.

Going Back to Work for Sandy Relief

Jennifer Grisafi, Corporate Service AssistantImage

I’ve always been an enthusiastic volunteer.  In college I volunteered for the Red Cross and also assisted their efforts after 9/11, answering phones and serving meals.  It was a great feeling to support my city after such a devastating attack.  I’ll never forget the smell of the still smoldering “pile” and the exhausted first responders who were so grateful for a hot meal and a place to sit down. 

Once I became a stay at home mom and moved to New Jersey, my love of volunteering really kicked in, plus I had more time to dedicate to the causes that really mattered to me.  I’m usually the first one to raise my hand and say “I’ll do it!” at my children’s school.  I’ve run the book fair, the school spring clean-up efforts, kindergarten orientations and yes, I’m usually the class parent.  I’m also an active volunteer at Saint Barnabas Medical Center’s NICU, where my youngest son spent six weeks after being born nine weeks premature.

However, when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in October 2012, I knew I needed to step up my volunteer game and branch out beyond my comfort zone.  After getting my own family back up and running (we were without power for ten days and stayed in hotels and friends’ homes), one night I sat down at the computer and researched volunteer opportunities.  One of the first websites to pop up and definitely the most user-friendly was Jersey Cares.  I liked how simple it was to search for a project and that there were so many options, whether it was hands-on work or clerical assistance. 

I immediately signed up to work in the Jersey Cares offices one day and to help out at a distribution center in Newark the next day.  It was that easy.  The morning I spent working in the office was great.  Although I just answered the phones, I enjoyed learning about the many projects the team was already putting into place just a few days after Sandy and all the fantastic work that was being done.  I was amazed at how many calls I answered from people all over the country asking how they could help.  Everyone had blankets they wanted to deliver, food they wanted to offer and even manual labor. One man said he was calling from Michigan and was unemployed, so he was willing to jump in his car and head to the Jersey Shore if we needed him, as long as he had a place to stay.  The outpouring of support was heartwarming. 

My time at the distribution center in Newark was also very rewarding.  I helped unload a truck (really out of my comfort zone!) and then distributed snacks to the many people waiting for hours in line in the freezing cold.  Those people, who were without power and had been waiting for many days to receive supplies, were so incredibly grateful.  It was such a wonderful feeling to hand them something that brightened their day and gave them hope. 

Not long after, I saw a Facebook post on the Jersey Cares page that the organization was hiring, looking for a part-time seasonal employee for Sandy relief.  On a whim, I sent in my resume.  I had been thinking about going back to work in public relations and events (my previous career) and this seemed to be a good place to start. It was. Jersey Cares has been a wonderful opportunity for me and a true learning experience. I’ve become educated on the devastation New Jersey suffered after the hurricane and have assisted in making things better for my home state.  Whether it is calling around to locations down the shore to see what their needs are or recruiting volunteers to assist in rebui

lding efforts, the work has been so rewarding. I’ve also enjoyed learning ho

w a non-profit works and all about social media, something that

wasn’t really

around when I worked in PR nine years ago. I’m looking forward to continuing to assist with the amazing efforts of Jersey Cares and having a hand in helping rebuild the Jersey Shore. 

 

Meet Ian, Jersey Cares Disaster Volunteer

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Below is a quick story about a Jersey Cares volunteer giving back during this challenging time.

Meet Ian, a Jersey Cares volunteer. He was trapped in his apartment in Hoboken for three days before walking through the flood waters to a cousin in Jersey City. He then traveled to stay with relatives who have a generator and has been volunteering for the past two days. He sorted donations in the Jersey Cares office in Newark, walked up 25 flights of stairs to help seniors in Hoboken and then loaded a van and delivered donated food and water to a children’s shelter in Paterson earlier today.

Volunteers like Ian will keep Jersey strong and help us get through this time. Thanks to all of you who are giving back – we’re overwhelmed by your generosity.

If you’d still like to join us, you can make a donation or register to volunteer at http://www.jerseycares.org.

There’s More to Volunteering than Serving a Meal.

Everyone has a role to play in life, and years ago I decided that my time here on the earth would have to be spent making it better than I found it. I was fortunate to find Hands On Tampa, a start-up volunteer program where I was living in Florida, and jumped ship from the corporate world to be introduced to the power of volunteers, a power that reached further than I understood.

Volunteers are changing the world. Just in the last year, Jersey Cares volunteers have collected 40,000 coats to warm struggling neighbors, tutored hundreds of children, created over 1,000 murals to give young people more invigorating learning environments, and in total contributed 40,000 hours to making communities and lives better. That’s just in New Jersey and just through Jersey Cares. There are countless others giving their time, effort and skill across the country and throughout the world, and that impact is critically important and needed.

But what we do, what you do, goes beyond the meals that are served or walls that are painted. There is a profound change that happens simply because we – all of us – volunteer.

When we get involved, when we volunteer, we learn about each other. We put a face on homelessness; we know the smile of a person who on a given night may be sleeping in the cold. We give an identity to poverty; we know the name of a child whose mother will run out of options when her welfare checks stop. We learn about our neighbors of other religions, other ethnicities, other political parties, who stand next to us in partnership to make a drab classroom into a place that students want to be.

 

And as we come to understand and respect one another, we become a community, working together to solve our challenges.

That’s what Jersey Cares does. That’s what volunteers do. And that’s why your involvement is so important.

If you have not yet found the way, the time, the place or even the motivation to get involved, please accept my invitation to join one of the many opportunities available through Jersey Cares or the organization of your choice. It’s possible, it’s important, it will change the world and, I promise you, it will change your life.

Brian Dean
Executive Director
Jersey Cares

From Wall Street to Broad Street…Changing Careers to Make a Difference

I’m not sure I cImagean pinpoint the day or the volunteer experience that would eventually change my career path and in turn, my life.  It was a combination of opportunities that were given to me while working in the corporate world that have led me to where I am today.  After graduating college I worked in finance, and continued on that path for over six years.   My favorite days at work were volunteering in the community at company-led projects or planning volunteering events for my co-workers.  Not the typical “favorite day” of a finance professional.  So I thought, how could I do this for a living?  I found a way.  I joined AmeriCorps.

I had volunteered with the HandsOn Network (HON) and other organizations through work and in my spare time.  I enjoyed the flexibility and project varieties that HON offered.   I wanted to work for an organization that made volunteering easy but was still rewarding and impactful.  When the position of Skills-Based Volunteer Coordinator at Jersey Cares, an affiliate of HON, was presented I thought it would be the perfect fit.  I would have the opportunity to develop a program that not only made volunteering easy but allowed professionals to use their skills to help others.  I knew I would enjoy working on this project as it’s something I would have enjoyed doing as a business professional.

For Jersey Cares, requests from their nonprofit partners and an overall community need led to the idea of a Skills-Based Volunteer Program.  Before introducing this concept into the community, Jersey Cares needed to test it out.  As a pilot project, a great team from a corporate sponsor’s IT department stepped in and volunteered by setting up the Jersey Cares new computer system.  This worked out so well, that Jersey Cares knew they needed to help other nonprofits in the same predicament.  Having this program led by an AmeriCorps VISTA was the perfect way to launch the initiative.

I am thankful for my past experiences through corporate and individual volunteering.  If I hadn’t had these opportunities I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I love working for such a wonderful organization and I am so thankful that AmeriCorps and Jersey Cares has given me an opportunity to re-start my career in a meaningful and fun environment.

Rebecca Gnessin

Skills-Based Volunteer Coordinator