Something to Grab Onto: Spotlight on Bergen Volunteer Center

From installing stability rails for seniors to helping with grocery shopping, the Bergen Volunteer Center is hands-on.

From installing stability rails for seniors to helping with grocery shopping, the Bergen Volunteer Center is hands-on.
Participants from the 2016 Mentoring Youth and Mentoring Moms programs during a holiday party.
Photo courtesy of Bergen Volunteer Center

Lynne Algrant, CEO of the Hackensack-based Bergen Volunteer Center (BVC), remembers a cheerful letter she received from a senior citizen after the BVC’s CHORE service installed banisters in his home. It read, “I’ve seen parts of my house that I haven’t seen in 15 years!” CHORE is a free handyperson service for seniors and disabled adults. Last year, nearly 1,500 clients were served and more than 1,600 grab bars installed.

Founded 52 years ago, BVC’s original intent was to match “people that wanted to volunteer and organizations that needed them,” says Algrant, an Englewood resident. BVC maintains that role through its online Get Connected database, but now operates its own volunteer initiatives, including CHORE, CHEER, Mentoring Youth and Mentoring Moms, as well as several civic engagement programs (Bergen LEADS, College LEADS, Teen LEADS).

At holiday time, BVC wraps itself around All Wrapped Up, a gift-giving service matching donors with low-income individuals and families. Last year, gifts were given to 3,500 people.

In 2017, volunteers gave more than 21,000 hours of service through BVC, which has just 12 full-time employees. “This mini army of volunteers doubles the capacity of what we’re able to do,” says Algrant.

A few years ago, Hackensack resident Phillicia DaCosta, now a BVC employee, began volunteering through BVC’s Mentoring Moms program, which offers friendship and support to mothers. DaCosta’s mentee is working on improving her English, so they practice the language by reading the Bible together. “Your interaction through the Bergen Volunteer Center is personal,” she says.

While CHORE volunteers do handiwork, CHEER volunteers do grocery shopping and other errands for homebound seniors. Recently, BVC began enlisting developmentally disabled young adults as CHORE volunteers. “Talk about really utilizing all the human capital and talent in a community,” says Algrant.

Algrant got involved with the BVC by serving as the seminar director for Bergen LEADS, a 10-month community learning and leadership program. Students speak with community leaders and complete a service project.

“We’re a small but mighty organization [that’s] really touching lives in a way that builds for the future,” says Algrant.

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