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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
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 VolunteerMatch.com, 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
"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."
08542. Janet Weber-McCarthy, director. 609-921-8893; fax, 609-921-8894.
Home page: www.handsonhelpers.org
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:
Judy Hutton, executive director. 609-396-8329.
in Mercer and Bucks; also a foundation at 609-278-9495.
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.
Trenton 08629-1915. Pierina Thayer, director. 609-392-6100; fax, 609-392-0651.
children, ages infant to 12 years, for whom foster care is not available.
to DYFS-involved children at the shelter.
East Franklin Street, Trenton 08610. Peter C. Weaver, executive director.
609-656-1000; fax, 609-656-1122. Home page: www.princetonol.com/groups/
relationship. Also donate to Cars for Kids program, 800-859-6526.
Street, Trenton 08611. 609-392-7837; fax, 609-393-6343.
needed to become responsible citizens and leaders through educational,
physical, social/cultural, recreational and prevention programs.
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.
Street, Trenton 08610. Kathy Conley, co-director. 609-695-8410; fax,
grade presented in school classrooms.
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.
177 Hightstown Road, Princeton Junction 08550. 609-799-1753; fax,
or impoverished families.
1 p.m. Guide homeless children in skills development between 10:30
a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
South Clinton Avenue, Trenton 08611-0831. Donna C. Pressma, CEO. 609-695-6274;
fax, 609-394-5769. Www.chsofnj.org
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
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.
Trenton 08618. Gerald Truehart, chief financial officer. 609-656-1300;
program for students in grade K-5 to educate them about business,
technology and character building.
08648. Connie Mercer, director. 609-989-9417; fax, 609-989-9423. Home
homeless families living in Route 1 motels.
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
Trenton 08608. Lydia Santoni Lawrence. 609-443-4464; fax, 609-585-8614.
to create a network of empowered Latinas.
girls, ages 11-18, in a structured mentoring program for one year.
Mary Inzana, founder, CEO. 609-771-1600; fax, 609-530-1648. Www.njo/communityconnection.com
have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused.
the cooking. Teach sign language to staff and residents, or tutor
and mentor young people to improve their reading and academic skills.
08611. Stephen Kitts, director. 609-396-1506; fax, 609-396-8218.
health care, food distribution, medical transportation.
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.
Oakland Street, Trenton 08618. Steven Rosen, executive director. 609-989-7333;
fax, 609-989-7381. Home page: www.millhillcenter.org
of children through educational programs for children 2 months to
5 years, also childcare.
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.
Road, Lawrenceville 08648. Maureen Quinn, executive director. 609-278-5844;
fax, 609-278-5846. Home page: www.environmentors.org
high school students form and reach their education and career goals,
Trenton and Princeton High.
to 8 month project in which an environmental issue is researched and
tested in a scientific way.
Road, Suite A 103, Princeton 08540. Kathleen Roe, executive director.
609-243-9779; fax, 609-243-0169. Home page: www.PA-OF-NJ.org
a day/7 days a week parent stressline (800-843-5437) and free professionally
facilitated self-help groups.
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.
08648. Evelyn A. Gill, executive director. 609-695-3739; fax, 609-695-1116.
to sexual abuse and personal safety.
08542. MaryJo Grauso, executive director. 609-924-3448; fax, 609-924-1663.
activities for teen or senior groups.
08605. Peter Wise. 609-695-5456; fax, 609-695-1225. Home page:
and dinner, Monday through Thursday, 4 to 6 p.m. To provide adult
education in literacy, basic math, GED preparation, and computer skills.
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.
08540. Richard F. Smith, CEO. 609-497-9622; fax, 609-497-9031. Home
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.
Trenton 08650. Jerri Morrison, executive director. 609-393-2220; fax,
for Trenton area youth, grades K-12, in public schools.
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.
Road, Ewing 08638. Joseph N. Gousie Sr., executive director. 609-406-0181;
fax, 609-406-9258. Home page: www.arcmercer.org
to provide services and products to the business community.
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.
819 Alexander Road, Princeton 08540. Rich McDonnell ACSW LCSW, executive
director. 609-452-2088; fax, 609-452-0627.
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.
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.
Monmouth Junction 08852. Linda King, executive director. 732-355-0620;
adults who are capable of fulltime work and independent living.
Road, Princeton 08540. Robert P. Stack, president, CEO. 609-951-9900;
fax, 609-951-9112. Home page: www.comop.org
empowerment for those with severe developmental 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.
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: www.members.aol.com/njautism
stapling material, and completing data entry between 8:30 a.m. and
08902. Sylvia Axelrod, executive director. 732-940-0991; fax, 732-940-0355.
illness; offering information, self-help support, education and advocacy.
in applying for grants. Mentor members who do not have families. Transport
members to group meetings.
Cranbury 08512. Oberson Emmerich. 609-409-1965; fax, 609-409-2075.
Home page: www.nhautism.org
Princeton United Methodist Church, Princeton 08542. Rev. Molly Dykstra.
609-430-0136; fax, 609-924-0113.
are some of the activities that volunteers. Their presence brings
a feeling of inclusion and acceptance to adults with intellectual
or psychiatric disabilities.
Corrections or additions?
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