This month, Liberty State Park will host a Jersey Cares volunteer project that will not only spruce up the park, but connect single people in Hoboken and throughout Hudson County.
For 15 years, Jersey Cares has been known as an all-encompassing volunteer group that is especially geared toward busy professionals who don’t have a lot of time for volunteering. The group sends out a monthly calendar of specific events that sometimes require as little as two hours or a one-time commitment.
Last month, the group for the first time began hosting “singles projects.”
While Jersey Cares is a Newark-based nonprofit organization, they are currently planning on expanding their reach into the Hudson County area.
The event in the Jersey City park this month will be the second singles project, but it will be the first one in Hudson County.
There will be a Saturday singles event every month in a different location, in order to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to get involved. The first was held on Feb. 9 at Newark’s Emergency Services for Families.
People will be invited on March 8 to take part in a variety of gardening projects and to mingle at Liberty State Park.
People can sign up for volunteer projects on the Jersey Cares website, where they can search by date, location, or the type of volunteer work they are interested in. The group frequently runs projects in Jersey City and Hoboken.
Not only will people be able to give back to the communities that they live and work in, but they will be able to meet like-minded individuals like themselves.
“Our director of volunteer programs, Ijeoma Obilo, said last week that it would be a great idea to engage [single] people in our projects, because that demographic is actually a larger percentage of people who are volunteer,” said Executive Director Brian Dean last week. “It seems like a great way for them to meet each other and a great way to enlarge our projects by securing more volunteers.”
Dating services didn’t bite
When originally planning a singles-only project, Obilo contacted popular dating services online in order to promote Jersey Cares to their members, but got little response.
This wasn’t a problem, since she was able to rely on a 3,000-person database of volunteers.
Obilo sent emails to singles on the site, and so far as gotten a very positive response to the projects.
“I have a lot of volunteers who are essentially trying to meet people,” said Obilo last week. “They don’t say this, but they want to meet someone special.”
Each month, Jersey Cares arranges regular volunteer opportunities around Hudson County. They include Hudson Cradle, a Jersey City organization that cares for homeless infants suffering from health needs, and the Hoboken Homeless Shelter. Dean said possible areas for volunteer growth in the future include Weehawken, West New York, Hoboken, and Jersey City.
Helping out in Hudson County
Dean said that the many corporate service projects they hold in Jersey City and Hoboken are also a way to gain new volunteers.
“We planned a large project for the UBS investment banks and had about 400 people at the Hoboken Boys’ and Girls’ Club and [Thomas G. Connors Elementary School], and they did quite a revitalization of the whole facility,” Dean said.
Sherry Fazio, a Hoboken resident who is now the director of external affairs, originally began her relationship with Jersey Cares through volunteering.
“My job is so much fun,” said Fazio last week. “I also manage our corporate service program. It is a great feeling to give back every day through your job.”
Jersey Cares was founded in 1993 by a group of young individuals who were interested in getting involved in their community, but felt that the volunteer network was daunting. They found that most organizations required a long-term commitment that their ever-changing schedules could not accommodate.
That is why Jersey Cares only asks people to sign up for events online that they can and want to be a part of.
The group was created as an arm of the Hands on Network, an organization connecting similar community projects, which has recently merged with the Points of Light Foundation located in Georgia.
There are currently 81 different volunteer outreaches of this kind around the world.
“Our whole concept is to make volunteering easy and flexible, but rewarding and impactful, so it gives everyone an opportunity volunteer through our on our online monthly calendar,” said Dean.
For more information visit www.jerseycares.org. To comment on this story or suggest others, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.