Staff Spotlight – Meet Jack

Meet Jack, one of the Jersey Cares AmeriCorps VISTA members! Our VISTA members have brought their passion and perseverance to the Jersey Cares team and are now wrapping up their year of changing lives.

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What is inspired you to become an AmeriCorps VISTA?

 

“My parents instilled in me a strong sense of community and the importance of giving back and I decided to continue that along with my experience with working with teens and youth.” “I like working with youth because I really do believe they are the future.”

What do you like most about working at Jersey Cares? How are your values reflected in the work done at Jersey Cares?

 

“I believe that volunteering helps create a stronger sense of community and that is evident in working with Jersey Cares because we help bring so many communities together through volunteerism.”

As part of the Programs department at Jersey Cares, you have helped manage and coordinate volunteer programs, agency relations, and leadership development with various youth populations, what is your greatest lesson from working in this department?

 

“My greatest lesson is how important these volunteer events are to the people we are helping to serve and the difference that we are making in the community.” “At first it can be difficult to realize the impact a simple volunteer event can have on a population, but after engaging with community members, you quickly learn how important these projects are and the difference it makes in the lives of these people.”

Your AmeriCorps term is due to end in November, how do you feel about leaving Jersey Cares?

 

“I feel grateful.” “I am going to miss all the people I have formed relationships with over the past year including the staff members at Jersey Cares.” “I am also going to miss the great work we do at Jersey Cares and knowing that every day I come into work that I have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.”

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What Hope Looks Like

 

By: Vanessa Martinez, Service Events Manager, Jersey Cares

Bag pipes, names, fathers, daughters, planes. Towers, sons, mothers, pain. If you ask me what I recall during the attacks of 9/11, I’d respond this way. As if recalling a memory, I intend on forgetting, but keep recalling anyway – a nightmare. I grew up in a small town – West New York – where people bustle about their lives the same way people did on that Tuesday morning on September 11th, 2001.  If you walk west towards the Hudson River, you could see the silent beauty that is the New York City skyline – all of it. Uptown cathedrals, the bright “New Yorker” sign, the Empire, West Side Highway, downtown skyscrapers towering above clouds.  Living here, one gets used to having such magic so close – you forget to look as you ride along the boulevard. That Tuesday morning, that quiet, unseasonably warm morning, everyone noticed it. Everyone heard it. Everyone stopped and stared at a different sort of magic– the black smoke that billowed, the ferries stopped in their waved paths, the sirens from every direction, the fire and smoke reflected on the river—it was as if everyone felt everyone elses lives turn into dust.

Some covered their mouths in horror, some looked away. Some jumped on the nearest City bound bus, maybe they knew someone. Maybe they wanted to help. As for me? I was 12 and late to my Science class as I walked into the 5th story corner classroom of P.S. #5. Incomprehension as the second plane impacts the South Tower.

Teachers begin to cry as I stare fixated on burning buildings in the distance. A thought interrupts the moment as I reflect on the fact that I was just there on Sunday with my cousins and we gazed straight up between the two pinstriped columns and got dizzy at the scale. My twelve-year-old brain skipped to the thought of “what if they fall?” and instantly was replaced with “they’re massive, it’s impossible.”

They did fall. And with their descent they took so much with them.

We went home early that day and my sister and I walked the three blocks home in silence. My dad’s voice cracked when I called him at work. “I’m glad you two…. are home safe” Those are the things I remember. Not a whole lot compared to the lessons I learned in the aftermath of 9/11.

I learned that our beloved skyline would never be the same. I learned what a declaration of war is. I learned that if you “see something, say something”, but most of all, I learned what hope looks like…

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Today, hope looks like 500 volunteers from across New Jersey coming together on 9/11 Day of Service for one purpose: to serve alongside one another to transform a Jersey City 9-11 Day of Service 2017 (8)high school deeply impacted by the tragic events of the day and create meaningful kits to be donated to hurricane victims, local first responders, seniors, and refugees.9113

Families and teams from schools, corporate groups, churches, and service organizations joined Jersey Cares at Dickinson High School on Saturday, September 9th. Half of the volunteers worked on revitalization projects including landscaping the school’s 9/11 memorial, brightening doors and railings with a fresh coat of paint, painting inspirational murals in school hallways to foster pride and school spirit, and911 day 1 creating decorative rock mosaics for the front entrance.

Simultaneously, families and several student organizations created hygiene kits for hurricane victims, Senior Care Packages with comfort items and 911day2thoughtful notes for Jersey City seniors, indoor hopscotch mats and activity kits for refugee children, and First Responder Thank You Kits for firefighters in Jersey City.

The morning of 9/11, I left Dickinson High School with a mission of delivering our First Responder Thank You Kits.  I drove by several firehouses on the way to Engine 14 – all with their garage doors closed – eerily reminiscent of the stations downtown on that fateful day. As I was sitting at a red light at the intersection of Palisades and Congress, I noticed it. A bright red fire truck poking its head out, followed by a line of solemn fire fighters. They followed their captain and lined up facing the spot where our beloved towers would have stood. They stood there in silence and saluted. It was 9:59am – the time the South Tower fell.

Palisade Avenue is typically a busy intersection. People walking, buses transporting commuters, but not at 9:59am. Traffic was paralyzed and people froze the same way as so many years ago.

Suddenly it did not matter how long I had been driving around or how far I had traveled to get these kits donated because in that moment, I realized what hope looks like and how far we have come. There are memorials scattered along the water, and countless lives that have been lost, but hope is everywhere and we must never lose sight of that.

Thank you to all of our incredible volunteers who came together to transform 9/11 into a day of empathy, unity, and service. Your time and hard work mean more than you could possibly imagine.  Thank you for keeping hope alive.

Staff Spotlight-Meet Kathleen!

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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!”

#NationalSelfieDay Summer Challenge

j.By:  Jadea Asante, Ready Corps

With the temperatures steadily increasing and the smell of barbeque in the air, it’s safe to say that summer is here. It’s easy for millennials, like myself, to get wrapped up in the same mundane routine. Going to work, looking for work, taking a summer class, and being glued to our cellphones; incessantly refreshing our feed to stay connected. What would happen if this summer we disconnected from technology and made real life connections with people in our communities?

Amazing things happen when we volunteer. Naturally doing good makes us feel good, volunteering boosts self-confidence and happiness.  As millennials, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to find the “perfect” job, that internship that will jumpstart our career or even getting accepted in our dream school. Although focusing on achieving goals is great all that pressure can leave us feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Volunteering is a great way to relieve stress and put thing in perspective.  

Living in a digital world its second nature to click a blue button to acquire new friends, but through volunteering you can meet amazing people in person. Through my own personal experience volunteering with Jersey Cares I have been able to meet likeminded individuals from all walks of life. 

Volunteering with Jersey cares is easy, fun, and meaningful. This summer I challenge you to put the phone down and go out and impact your community.

 

“A Visit from Super Volunteer”

Adapted from “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore

JCD2017‘Twas two nights before Jersey Cares Day, when all through the state,

Not a volunteer was stirring, not quite this late;

The supplies were delivered to the sites with great care,

In hopes that the volunteers soon would be there;

 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of new classrooms danced in their heads;

And the team in their t-shirts, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a much-needed nap,

 

When out in the parking lot there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the floor to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a dart,

Tore open the blinds and threw them apart.

 

The moon on the white stripes of the parking lot,

Gave the shine of mid-day to my parking spot,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a school bus filled chock full of volunteers.

 

With a driver so happy and full of good cheer,

We knew in an instant it must be “Super Volunteer.”

More rapid than eagles his helpers they came,

And he laughed as he shouted and called them by name:

 

“Now, PAINTER! now, ARTIST! now, SKETCHER and BUILDER!

On, SORTER! on CLEANER! on, SWEEPER and PACKER!

To the buckets and brooms and big mounds of dirt,

Get to it! Get to it! (But no one get hurt!)

 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard around the state,

Volunteers starting work – man they’re so great!

As I pulled out my phone and was turning around,

In the door “Super Volunteer” came with a bound.

 

He was dressed in work clothes, from his head to his foot,

And he was splattered in old paint – even his boots,

A hammer, paint brush, and gloves hung from his belt,

A bottle of water and a hat – so he wouldn’t melt.

 

The stump of a pencil, he held tight in his teeth,

To sign in volunteers on the clipboard beneath,

He was armed with a sharpie and a roll of trash bags,

Ready to answer questions and solve problems we had.

 

He was friendly and cheerful, a picture of health,

And I smiled when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a nod of his head,

Let me know quickly that I had nothing to dread;

 

He joked and we laughed, but went straight to our task,

He completed the projects – we didn’t have to ask.

Then sending a text to all of his team

He winked and he nodded and disappeared it seemed.

 

He jumped on his bus and to his team gave a shout,

And they all waved and smiled as they headed out,

But we heard them exclaim as they drove out of sight,

“We love volunteering, It just feels right!”

Forty Days of Service – One Volunteer’s Journey

For some people, turning forty can be an impetus for change; for Nyree Anderson Miscia it was a call to action. She has committed to forty days of service leading up to her fortieth birthday and we caught her at the midway point of her journey to ask her a few questions.

If you are interested in embarking on an “epic” journey like Nyree’s or just looking for a single day of service with your friends and family, check out http://www.JerseyCares.org for hundreds of exciting opportunities where you can find your purpose.

Q: What inspired you to do 40 days of service in a row?

A: To me turning 40 is a big deal. I feel more fulfilled by helping others, therefore I wanted to ring in 40 with something big.

Q: You are on day 20 how is it going so far?

A: It’s going great. Today I was in Paterson at a women’s shelter spending time with children. I’ve also done a beach sweep with Jersey Cares. I’ve been meeting a lot of great people and learning about all the organizations I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.

Q: What has been your most rewarding nyree-2experience?

A: There have been two standout projects that have been most rewarding. Saint Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Newark, being able to cook and serve the food to people was very fulfilling. Second, Mentheny School in Gladstone I got to spend time with six nonverbal students and we got to talk about election and they got to have a mock election. Seeing how they communicate was fascinating.

Q: What have you found most surprising?

A: This may sound strange (laughs) but at Selective Seconds in Belmar there was a piece of furniture that looked horrible, by the time we refurbished it, it looked brand new.

Q: How have your family and friends reacted to this news?nyree

A: Some people think I’m nuts, some want me to come over and do their chores. In all seriousness, people have been very supportive, people have told me I’m inspiring them. People who I haven’t talk to in years have reached out on Facebook to show their support. People are so surprised how many places there are to volunteer at.

Q: What would you say to people who are thinking about volunteering through Jersey Cares?

nyree-3A: Jersey Cares is a great organization. They have a variety of organizations to work with. Even if people don’t want to go to Newark or Paterson, you can volunteer for them behind the scenes doing admin work in Livingston. You can also volunteer everything from time to money.

Q: What advice would you give to people who want to undertake the same type of challenge?

A: Plan it. Make sure you give yourself some leeway. Make sure your schedule is flexible, somethings don’t always go as planned.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: I’ve learned to never be bored. There is always something to do. I am shocked how much attention this is getting; a newspaper might do a story about me. This has been a ton of fun being able to give back and dedicate time to others has been so rewarding. Remember, every little bit counts.

It’s Alive…

frankenstein-halloween-vector_21-58629591By: Samantha Castagna, Jersey Cares Corporate Service Manager

Frankenstein Day, really?  Who knew that there was a day celebrating Frankenstein?  The author of Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was born on August 30th, 1797 (which would have made her 219 this year) and so Frankenstein Day was born as well. Mixing elements of both the gothic and romantic movements, Mary Shelley created a work of science fiction that has inspired others’ stories, plays, and films for years succeeding Frankenstein’s initial release.  There have been no less than 52 movie and television adaptations of this classic as well as millions of printings of the novel.  The word itself has wound its way into the American lexicon.

While Jersey Cares was founded a whopping 175 years after Frankenstein’s first publishing, we have a few things in common with this enduring piece of literature:

1.            Much like Dr. Frankenstein, our volunteers and staff are always creating – creating change in the community and creating new ways to serve and get involved

2.            Similar to Frankenstein’s monster, our volunteers – coming from all walks of life – contribute a little bit of themselves to every project, ultimately coming together to be a huge force of good in New Jersey’s communities

3.            As Mary Shelley’s story has inspired many, creating a legacy within the literary and art community, Jersey Cares strives to inspire volunteers across the state to be the change in their community, creating a legacy of service across the Garden State

No matter what you may think of Frankenstein, you can’t deny how pervasive and influential it’s been through the years. For this, we are happy to celebrate Frankenstein Day and look forward to creating a similar legacy for volunteerism.