Helping Children

For Autistic

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This article was prepared for the December 18, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Hands On Helper: Janet Weber-McCarthy

Lives are busier these days. We travel further to

work, and that is somewhat squeezing out volunteerism," says Janet Weber-McCarthy, director of Hands On Helpers, the three-year-old community service organization that maintains an online database of volunteer opportunities in greater Mercer County.

With software created by Bob Weber of Vaughn Drive-based Weblications, this database has created more than 2,000 links between organizations and volunteers, and it has about 125 visitors a day, each spending an average of 10 minutes. Monthly the site gets 1,300 searches for volunteer opportunities.

"Rather than having to call 20 different agencies until you find

one that can accommodate your needs, you can go to the website that

has 800 opportunities, and the website filters out what is appropriate

for what they can do," says Weber-McCarthy. Agencies can put in

their new opportunities, and once a new organization or opportunity

is added that automatically goes into a public service announcement

in the Times of Trenton.

Not only can you search for a job by organization or key word, but

also by your particular talent. You can choose one or a dozen criteria,

starting with who you are (an individual, a group, what age) and the

focus of your desired work (choose from three dozen categories ranging

from adolescents to hunger relief to performing arts). You can also

do your search based on location (Belle Mead to Bordentown) and time.

For instance, searching on jobs to do "after work and Saturdays"

brings up 265 positions, and 172 of them are weekly and 25 are for

just one time.

Yet another choice to make is what skills you have to share. Choose

from three dozen skills ranging from "licensed driver" to

"record keeping." If your skill is being a good listener,

there are 58 opportunities, 24 of them in Princeton. Would-be public

speakers have 23 opportunities. Should you want to limit your speaking

just to Princeton, that narrows the matches down to seven. Want to

do heavy lifting? Fourteen jobs are waiting for you, and some aren’t

all that weighty, just delivering meals.

Agencies used to be more rigid in the volunteer positions they offered,

suggests Weber-McCarthy. "Over the last four years we’ve seen

volunteers become much more aware of their needs and desires, and

they seek positions that best fit into their very busy lifestyles,

versus fitting their life into what needed to be done," she says.

"Any creative method that agencies can use to encourage volunteerism

is good."

One trend is for families to sign up. "If families have only a

few hours a week, they want to spend them together, so they can go

to a soup kitchen and serve the meal," she says.

Before, if you couldn’t make a weekly commitment, the agencies didn’t

want you. But organizations listed with Hands On Helpers now offer

jobs that can be accomplished "sporadically" or "one-time."

A search on "sporadic" results in 327 positions, and 127 of

them can be accomplished by groups — workplace groups or families.

Or choose from among the "one-time" volunteer jobs, such as

being a hole-watcher at a golf tournament, watching for a hole-in-one.

You may get some false negatives on your searches, and the solution

is to call Hands on Helpers directly or just keep clicking on different

key words. For instance if you asked to contribute your science or

math skills, but on a sporadic or one-time basis, your search comes

up zero. Yet the Delaware Raritan Girl Scouts are asking for people

to "share expertise in specific areas with groups of girls, e.g…,

science and technology."

And sometimes common sense must supersede any database. Searching

on musical performance opportunities for a group of teenagers produces

no results — until you also put "elderly" into the mix,

and you get the chance to perform at the Mercer County Geriatric Center.

But you already know that nursing homes are great places for adolescents

to strut their stuff.

Weber-McCarthy came to this job 18 months ago. A native

of Long Island, where her father was a manager for the telephone company

and her mother was a manager at Bloomingdale’s, she majored in intercultural

communications at SUNY Albany, Class of 1984. She later moved to Florida,

where she worked for the American Red Cross, most recently as executive

director of a branch. She has also been vice president at the United

Way of Greater Princeton. Her husband, Dennis McCarthy, is an internal

software consultant for a Saddle Brook firm, and they live in Hillsborough

with a six-year-old and two-year-old twins.

She works three days a week, and her assistant, Rob Kantenwein, also

works part time. Her $85,000 annual budget comes from the United Way

and several area foundations and is augmented by very low rent from

her landlord, Family and Children’s Services on John Street in Princeton.

She has a $3,000 grant in place to upgrade the website to include

a voluntary registration form and an exit survey, and another grant

from the James Kerney Foundation will go for new equipment. She is

about to roll out a bulletin board for volunteer managers to help

them speak to each other effectively.

"We are responding to feedback and focus groups and starting to

do education for volunteer managers to utilize their volunteers more

effectively," she says. "If a volunteer is not utilized in

a way they feel uses their skills, that is the reason for their dropping

out. Hence our training for managers."

Several other groups have asked to use the website’s software, created

by Weblications but owned by Hands on Helpers. For this and other

reasons, Weber-McCarthy does not consider the national matching services,

such as, as real competition. "There, you have

to do a search on a zip code and pick a radius around that. On our

site, you can pick the community, the hours and the type of work you

want to do, and search by minimum age for your family or group. The

national organizations don’t have that many filters."

"Here you get the best of both worlds. You get the local knowledge

combined with the efficiency of a computerized database." If you

get confused, or if you don’t find what you are looking for, call.

"We might know of an opportunity, or we can help an agency custom

craft something."

"It’s a wonderful feeling to volunteer," says Weber-McCarthy.

As busy as she is, she still does some volunteering, with her son’s

Cub Scout pack and at his school. "Even with a couple of hours

a week, you get back more than you give even if that is not your intention."

Hands on Helpers, 120 John Street, Suite 7, Princeton

08542. Janet Weber-McCarthy, director. 609-921-8893; fax, 609-921-8894.

Home page:

Top Of Page
Helping Children

Or Disabled Adults

U.S. 1’s annual Helping Hands issue highlights two organizations,

one that offers job development to autistic adults — Eden Institute

Family of Services) and one that helps abused children — Court

Appointed Special Advocate (see cover story, page 10). Would-be volunteers

can find other organizations in these two categories by searching

the database at Hands on Helpers. Here is what we found:

Anchor House, 482 Center Street, Trenton 08611.

Judy Hutton, executive director. 609-396-8329.

Mission: shelter for runaway, abused, and homeless children

in Mercer and Bucks; also a foundation at 609-278-9495.

Volunteer jobs: Prepare special meals for the 10-17 year olds

living at the residence and teach them to cook in the process. Help

freshen up the residence for 10-17 year old runaways by doing yardwork

outside area, painting inside rooms or helping with general repairs.

Tutor our 10-17 year old residents with their homework for an hour

or two anytime after the school day ends. Provide supervision to the

10-17 year old runaways residing at Anchor House. Spend quality time

with them and lead fun group activities.

Angel’s Wings, 601 Hamilton Avenue, Seventh Floor,

Trenton 08629-1915. Pierina Thayer, director. 609-392-6100; fax, 609-392-0651.

Mission: emergency respite care around-the-clock to DYFS-involved

children, ages infant to 12 years, for whom foster care is not available.

Volunteer jobs: Help provide emotional support and respite care

to DYFS-involved children at the shelter.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Mercer County, 535

East Franklin Street, Trenton 08610. Peter C. Weaver, executive director.

609-656-1000; fax, 609-656-1122. Home page:

Mission: matching youth with caring adult volunteers in one-on-one


Volunteer jobs: Spend time each week with a child in a mentoring

relationship. Also donate to Cars for Kids program, 800-859-6526.

Boys & Girls Club of Mercer County, 212 Centre

Street, Trenton 08611. 609-392-7837; fax, 609-393-6343.

Mission: helping youth of all backgrounds develop qualities

needed to become responsible citizens and leaders through educational,

physical, social/cultural, recreational and prevention programs.

Volunteer jobs: Assist youth with homework by tutoring weekday

afternoons. Assisting in billiards area, running tournaments anytime

on weekdays from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m. Assist with arts and crafts or

computers for 5 to 17-year-old members from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Assist

in the gym with various athletic activities and league games between

2:30 and 8:30 p.m.

Camp Fire USA New Jersey Council, 535 East Franklin

Street, Trenton 08610. Kathy Conley, co-director. 609-695-8410; fax,


Mission: abuse prevention programs for pre-school through seventh

grade presented in school classrooms.

Volunteer jobs: "Gift of Giving " volunteers are matched

with a Trenton elementary school classroom to guide the students in

a learning experience an hour each week for five weeks.

Technical assistance needed to support computer capabilities. Volunteers

may help create graphics and copy for program marketing efforts and

assist with website.

Collate, staple and fold child abuse/substance abuse prevention materials.

On-going volunteers are need, but volunteer may choose to do small

or large amounts.

Cherry Tree Club c/o Prince of Peace Lutheran Church,

177 Hightstown Road, Princeton Junction 08550. 609-799-1753; fax,


Mission: weekday preschool program for children of homeless

or impoverished families.

Volunteer jobs: Prepare and serve lunch between 11:30 a.m. and

1 p.m. Guide homeless children in skills development between 10:30

a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, 635

South Clinton Avenue, Trenton 08611-0831. Donna C. Pressma, CEO. 609-695-6274;

fax, 609-394-5769.

Mission: domestic and international adoption, infant foster

care, pregnancy counseling, family day care, post-adoption support,

birth parent and parenting counseling, child abuse and neglect counseling

and prevention, child care, early childhood development, school-based

peer-led youth primary prevention of risk behavior, community resource


Volunteer jobs: Volunteers who can relate well with seventh

and eighth graders. Must be able to help students with decision making.

Knowledge of interactive, positive activities for youth helpful.

Classroom aides work with a trained facilitator as part of the Adolescent

Pregnancy Prevention Program to speak with sixth to eighth graders

about issues of sexuality, identity, and decision making. Experience

with youth and ability to speak openly are necessary.

Granville Charter Schools, 363 West State Street,

Trenton 08618. Gerald Truehart, chief financial officer. 609-656-1300;

fax, 609-392-7444.

Volunteer jobs: Tutors needed 4 to 6 p.m. for an afterschool

program for students in grade K-5 to educate them about business,

technology and character building.

HomeFront, 1880 Princeton Avenue, Lawrenceville

08648. Connie Mercer, director. 609-989-9417; fax, 609-989-9423. Home


Mission: helping families break the cycle of poverty, aid to

homeless families living in Route 1 motels.

Volunteer jobs: Write thank-you notes for donations. Staff a

booth at a community event to give information on the Center’s work,

sell merchandise and accept donations.

Field telephone calls and assist receptionist between the hours of

10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Also assist transitional living coordinator with client work. Support

and mentor homeless people in areas like: budgeting, problem solving,

self-advocacy. Tutor adult learners by working one-on-one with a person

to develop their reading skills. Transport clients to appointments

at various organizations in Mercer County to help them get their lives


Latina Women’s Council, 140 East Hanover Street,

Trenton 08608. Lydia Santoni Lawrence. 609-443-4464; fax, 609-585-8614.

Mission: leadership mentoring program for girls ages 11 to 18,

to create a network of empowered Latinas.

Volunteer jobs: Volunteers needed to work one-on-one with Latina

girls, ages 11-18, in a structured mentoring program for one year.

Lifeties Inc., 2205 Pennington Road, Trenton 08638.

Mary Inzana, founder, CEO. 609-771-1600; fax, 609-530-1648. Www.njo/

Mission: Triad House — services to youth ages 12-18 who

have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

Volunteer jobs: Help spruce up the house and yard and help with

the cooking. Teach sign language to staff and residents, or tutor

and mentor young people to improve their reading and academic skills.

Mercer Street Friends, 151 Mercer Street, Trenton

08611. Stephen Kitts, director. 609-396-1506; fax, 609-396-8218.

Mission: after-school programs, long-term health care, home

health care, food distribution, medical transportation.

Volunteer jobs: Work with children who are at-risk of abuse

and neglect. Help watch over infants and toddlers while their parents

attend a daytime parenting group. Provide office support by answering

phones, filing and preparing charts for Home Health Care Agency.

Also supervise afterschool games and recreational activities and help

with homework at the Ike Williams Neighborhood Center. Supervise indoor

and outdoor games and recreational activities at school-age child

care program in the Hamilton and Trenton Public School.

Assist with arts and crafts projects, socialize with clients and help

with bingo and other board games at the Adult Day Care Center between

10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Assist children of single working mothers and low-income

families by helping with indoor & outdoor play, arts & crafts, storytelling,

singing and meals at the West State Street Child Development Center

between 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Millhill Child & Family Development Center, 101

Oakland Street, Trenton 08618. Steven Rosen, executive director. 609-989-7333;

fax, 609-989-7381. Home page:

Mission: cognitive, physical, social, and psychological development

of children through educational programs for children 2 months to

5 years, also childcare.

Volunteer jobs: Volunteers are needed to help out in the classroom

by reading to children, 2 months to 5 years old, playing and interacting

with the teacher.

Copy, file, answer the telephone and work computers in family-based

child care center — college students welcomed. Grounds and maintenance

help. Sort clothing for children and parents, teach sewing, computer,

basic life skills, budgeting and business etiquette interviewing classes.

New Jersey Environmentors Project, 229 Lawrenceville

Road, Lawrenceville 08648. Maureen Quinn, executive director. 609-278-5844;

fax, 609-278-5846. Home page:

Mission: multi-cultural one-to-one mentor program that helps

high school students form and reach their education and career goals,

Trenton and Princeton High.

Be matched one-on-one with a high school student and commit

to 8 month project in which an environmental issue is researched and

tested in a scientific way.

Parents Anonymous of New Jersey Inc., 12 Roszel

Road, Suite A 103, Princeton 08540. Kathleen Roe, executive director.

609-243-9779; fax, 609-243-0169. Home page:

Mission: statewide self-help program for parents with 24 hour

a day/7 days a week parent stressline (800-843-5437) and free professionally

facilitated self-help groups.

Volunteer jobs: Receive training to facilitate a children’s

program in your community. Must commit to 2 hours/week for one year.

Facilitate parent support groups in your community. Volunteers receive

intensive training and must make a 2 hour-per-week commitment for

one year. Take calls on PA’s Stressline and Family Helpline from parents

and teens under stress and in crisis, and from professionals and others

interested in PA.

Prevention Education Inc., 231 Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville

08648. Evelyn A. Gill, executive director. 609-695-3739; fax, 609-695-1116.

Mission: education, intervention, and training programs relating

to sexual abuse and personal safety.

Volunteer jobs: Help support busy office by answering the phone.

Princeton Housing Authority, 50 Clay Street, Princeton

08542. MaryJo Grauso, executive director. 609-924-3448; fax, 609-924-1663.

Mission: provide low-income housing for elderly, disabled and


Volunteer jobs: Facilitate social, recreational, or educational

activities for teen or senior groups.

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, 72 Escher Street, Trenton

08605. Peter Wise. 609-695-5456; fax, 609-695-1225. Home page:

Mission: To provide a hot, nutritious meal at lunchtime, weekdays,

and dinner, Monday through Thursday, 4 to 6 p.m. To provide adult

education in literacy, basic math, GED preparation, and computer skills.

Volunteer jobs: Kids’ room volunteers, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.,

to help children enjoy an arts activity. Good for those younger than

13 when accompanied by an adult. Call Cathy at 609-695-5456.

Also tutors needed to help adults with basic literacy, math, GED preparation

and computer skills, weekdays from 9 to 11 a.m. or Monday to Thursday,

2 to 4 p.m.

Princeton Family YMCA, Paul Robeson Place, Princeton

08540. Richard F. Smith, CEO. 609-497-9622; fax, 609-497-9031. Home


Volunteer jobs: Tutors/mentors needed in our After School Program

from 3-6pm for students grade K-5 during the school year.

Coaches needed for Youth Sports Program — mostly weekends but

some weekdays, all year.

Young Scholars’ Institute, 399 West State Street,

Trenton 08650. Jerri Morrison, executive director. 609-393-2220; fax,


Mission: educational, cultural, and recreational activities

for Trenton area youth, grades K-12, in public schools.

Volunteer jobs: "Career Speaker" to teach high school

after-school program students about a job or vocation. Tutor between

5 and 8 p.m. one day a week with children, grades K-12, in various

subjects. Saturday tutors needed between 10 a.m. and noon. Volunteers

to assist in the office with clerical tasks.

Top Of Page
For Autistic

or Disabled

The Arc/Mercer Inc. (Arc Enterprises), 180 Ewingville

Road, Ewing 08638. Joseph N. Gousie Sr., executive director. 609-406-0181;

fax, 609-406-9258. Home page:

Mission: non-profit employing those with developmental disabilities

to provide services and products to the business community.

Volunteer jobs: Serve an inner-city per-school facility that

serves children with special needs and other children from Mercer


Assist persons with disabilities in learning job skills necessary

for current or future community employment. Or in learning how to

realize their dreams and desires in life by becoming better self-advocates.

Work with Club HERO program to assist persons with disabilities in

engaging in meaningful leisure activities on site and in the community.

Association for Advancement of Mental Health (AAMH),

819 Alexander Road, Princeton 08540. Rich McDonnell ACSW LCSW, executive

director. 609-452-2088; fax, 609-452-0627.

Mission: community mental health center serving adults living

in the Greater Mercer area with diverse range of behavioral health

care needs with programs including outpatient services, partial care

day treatment and employment services, supported housing/integrated

case management services, future planning and long term care services,

family education and support group services.

Volunteer jobs: Help with folding, labels, and data entry for

fundraisers. Assist group therapists providing educational and recreational

group activities. Lead the group in learning a new skill or activity.

Work on a committee to help plan special events, an eight-month commitment.

Citizens for Independent Living, 100 Woods Lane,

Monmouth Junction 08852. Linda King, executive director. 732-355-0620;

fax, 732-329-6038.

Mission: nonprofit organization assisting developmentally disabled

adults who are capable of fulltime work and independent living.

Community Options Inc./Enterprises Inc., 16 Farber

Road, Princeton 08540. Robert P. Stack, president, CEO. 609-951-9900;

fax, 609-951-9112. Home page:

Mission: community based services with an emphasis on individual

empowerment for those with severe developmental disabilities.

Volunteer jobs: Companions: assist individuals with disabilities

in social and recreational activities. May include taking someone

to the movies, out to eat, shopping to the zoo, ball game, etc. Share

your favorite hobby or activity.

COSAC New Jersey — Center for Outreach and

Services for the Autism Community Inc., 1450 Parkside Avenue, Suite

22, Ewing 08638. Paul Potito, executive director. 609-883-8100; fax,

609-883-5509. Home page:

Mission: New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the

Autism Community

Volunteer jobs: Help in the office by stuffing envelopes, folding,

stapling material, and completing data entry between 8:30 a.m. and

5 p.m.

NAMI New Jersey, 1562 Route 130 North, North Brunswick

08902. Sylvia Axelrod, executive director. 732-940-0991; fax, 732-940-0355.

Mission: organization for families of persons with serious mental

illness; offering information, self-help support, education and advocacy.

Volunteer jobs: Do corporate and foundations research to help

in applying for grants. Mentor members who do not have families. Transport

members to group meetings.

New Horizons in Autism, 237 Prospect Plains Road,

Cranbury 08512. Oberson Emmerich. 609-409-1965; fax, 609-409-2075.

Home page:

Mission: after school program, based in Neptune.

The HUB, 160 Nassau Street at Vandeventer, c/o

Princeton United Methodist Church, Princeton 08542. Rev. Molly Dykstra.

609-430-0136; fax, 609-924-0113.

Mission: socialization for adults with intellectual or psychiatric


Volunteer jobs: Socializing, conversation, table games and snacks

are some of the activities that volunteers. Their presence brings

a feeling of inclusion and acceptance to adults with intellectual

or psychiatric disabilities.

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