Read about our featured volunteers and how they are helping communities in NJ

The following are Jersey Cares Volunteer Stars...they all exceeded our expectations and inspired others through their leadership.

December 2015
Kara Gropler

This month’s Volunteer Star of the Month is Kara Gropler, a jet-setting, back-packing, all-around fabulous Project Coordinator born and bred in New Jersey. Three years ago, her very first project was Tutor and Mentor in West Orange, and to this day, she PCs the very same project with her whole heart. Marketer by day, volunteer superstar by, well, other days—Kara’s interest in education and volunteerism has only grown the more success she has seen. Though she travels every month for work, “New Jersey is home for me,” says Kara. She has been “pretty much everywhere” except Africa and Antarctica (even going off the grid, inspired by the book Wild, to backpack for two weeks through Colorado and Utah), but some of her favorite places are the hiking trails in her own New Jersey backyard. This is the land of “haves” and “have nots,” as she explains. She wants to be someone who makes a difference in her home state; we’re fairly confident she is. Following in the footsteps of the PC before her, she’ll be coordinating a career fair for her Saturday kids this spring to give them access to leaders that came from their own communities.

Volunteering is a way to help level the playing field and provide opportunity that everyone deserves but not everyone has access to.  NJ SEEDs is a great example of an organization that provides opportunities to children who may not have what children in other, higher performing, districts might have. 

- Kara Gropler

With personal time in such short supply, she chooses to spend it wisely; and thankfully for the kids she mentors every other week in West Orange, she spends that time with family and volunteering at Jersey Cares. We’re happy to call her part of our family, that’s for sure.

If you’d like to make a different in the lives of kids across New Jersey like Kara, check out our Tutor and Mentor programs!

November 2015
Alan Wong

This month’s Volunteer Star of the Month is Alan Wong, a relative new-comer to the Jersey Cares family! His very first project dates back just six months ago, to April of this year, when he started at Marketplace in East Brunswick. Since becoming an official Project Coordinator in September, he has jumped right in and led dozens of projects geared towards feeding the hungry and helping the homeless. You can find him running the show at projects like Marketplaces and Hunger Helpers. Alan is originally a Jersey boy whose military police job has taken him to locale as diverse as Kansas, Germany, Georgia (which he emphatically describes as “Beautiful!”), Washington, and New York City. But time and again, the army has noticed the Jersey in him and keeps bringing him back. And we’re happy to have him while we can! As often as he can, Alan likes to drive to his new homes and he enjoys “exploring the subcultures of the United States.” And what has all this traveling taught him? Well, it’s certainly added unique notes to his eclectic music collection. Additionally, it’s taught him that “we’re all in this together—we’re here to serve.” Alan has been in the army for 20+ years, and in active service for 16. Serving the community is simply in his blood, and says Alan, it runs deep for many other military officers who share his emphasis on civic duty and volunteerism. There may be something to this: when Alan recently suffered a knee injury, he was physically restricted from feeding the hungry. So what did he do? He drove up to the Jersey Cares’ home office and helped us out here, at the new Behind The Scenes with Jersey Cares volunteer project! His 3 year term in the Garden State is almost up, with Japan next in line. This tenacious and inspirational young man is currently learning Japanese from another volunteer at one of his regular volunteer opportunities. Here’s hoping there’s a Japan Cares waiting for him!

October 2015
Kristina Bischof

Congratulations to our Jersey Cares Volunteer Star of the month for October, Kristina Bischof! When this busy twentysomething isn't working multiple jobs at once, she somehow finds time to make other people her top priority. She's been with us since 2012, and quickly became one of our stars in the making! Last fall, she joined our Season of Service, and the rest was history. Kristina exuded a natural and exemplary knack for leadership even in this highly selective group, and we're thrilled to see her grow even more as a Project Coordinator in the past year. She sincerely enjoys helping people, even if it just means making them smile. Her favorite volunteer organization? Care One at Madison--where she's been able to spread smiles and make friends across the generations, some even in their hundreds. We can only imagine what a powerhouse star she'll be when she gets to be that age!

July 2015
Donna Story

Jersey Cares’ July 2015 Star of the Month, Donna Story, is a tireless volunteer! She makes mashed potatoes every month for her church’s soup kitchen and is an usher for the State Theater in New Brunswick and she still has time to volunteer with Jersey Cares. Donna has been a part of monthly delivery day at our Marketplace in East Brunswick for the past year and a half and six months ago joined the ranks as a Project Coordinator. Donna is very appreciative that Jersey Cares allows her to make a tangible impact through such an easy commitment. At her “day job” Donna happens to work in customer support for the company that provides Jersey Cares with our volunteer database, and she has graciously given her time to train and coach the office staff so we can all work more effectively and efficiently.  In her “spare” time, Donna loves to attend concert and plays, spend time with her beloved nieces and nephews, cook, and ski.  Thank you so much, Donna, for all that you do to help Jersey Cares improves the lives of our neighbors throughout NJ.  If you’d like to learn more , check out our volunteer opportunity calendar and project coordinator program. 

June 2015
Gisella Pescoran

Congratulations to Gisella Pescoran, the Jersey Cares Star of the Month for June 2015. Gisella first came to Jersey Cares hoping to obtain an internship as part of her sociology major at NJCU. Impressed with the wide array of projects available, she opted to fulfill her hours by becoming a project coordinator and leading over 35 projects since early March- including acting as a Jersey Cares Day site captain a mere three months after her initial training! Though she enjoyed all her varied volunteer experiences, she has grown especially fond of Games Galore in Hanover and has decided to continue leading that project after having completed her degree and graduated in May. Thanks for your generous spirit and tireless energy, Gisella!


May 2015
Nareena Imam


Congratulations to Nareena Imam, Jersey Cares’ May 2015 Star of the Month! Nareena is an amazingly driven and big-hearted young woman who seeks out opportunities to help her community at every turn. She is a fixture at Sunday Social in Menlo Park, and was recruited to train as Project Coordinator there after taking the initiative to call in attendance to the volunteer helpline. Nareena is currently a full-time student at Rutgers majoring in Biology, and she hopes to go on to an MD/PhD program and work in medical research, searching for cures to some of the worlds’ most devastating diseases. She loves the variety of opportunities made possible through Jersey Cares and the ease of navigating the website and signing up for opportunities. She also appreciates the chance to spend time with the seniors, some of whom have over 100 years of stories to share. Volunteering, she says, has helped her through dark times in her own life through the joy of giving to others. Jersey Cares is incredibly proud to have Nareena as part of our team! Find ways to share YOUR passion and give back by checking out our Volunteer Calendar.

April 2015
Laura Bellamy

Jersey Cares is pleased to recognize Laura Bellamy as our April 2015 Star of the Month. Laura has generously given an impressive 105 hours of her time to Jersey Cares’ volunteer opportunities since February 2014. This past summer she trained to be a project coordinator through the intensive Season of Service Project Leader program, and successfully led 11 projects. Though Laura has supported a number of impact areas, her heart truly lies with youth education and mentorship. In addition to working with Tutor and Mentor and Literacy Leaders in Newark, she is a Big Sister and a ServiceWorks success coach. She has even switched careers from research and development to education because of her deep love for children. Volunteerism is important to Laura because she believes that people are lifelong learners, and serving her community affords her the opportunity to understand it better and help to bring about positive change. She thinks we should all “embrace the general spirit of giving back”- something she has undeniably mastered.  If you’d like to follow Laura’s lead and give back, be sure to visit our Volunteer Opportunity Calendar.

March 2015
Mary Jane Quinlan

Congratulations to Mary Jane Quinlan, Jersey Cares’ March Star of the Month. Mary Jane has been an active volunteer since the fall of 2013, and a project coordinator since early 2014. She currently leads Mobile Meals in Paterson and Marketplace in Clifton. A retired auditor who is use to the frenetic and competitive nature of Wall Street, Mary Jane says that she appreciates the variety of volunteer opportunities offered by Jersey Cares and the relaxed and open hearted atmosphere of our projects. She especially enjoys the Mobile Meals opportunity because it gives her a chance to interact directly with the people she is helping and because her fellow volunteers are so willing to give their time and kindness, outdoors for hours regardless of the weather. If you’d like to join Mary Jane and thousands of others who are serving their NJ communities, you can find a wide variety of opportunities on our volunteer opportunity calendar.


February 2015
Ana Mendes


Jersey Cares would like to thank volunteer leader Ana Mendes for her dedication to service by recognizing her as our February Star of the Month. Ana has led our Cooking Creations in Newark Project since May of 2014, guiding teams of volunteers in preparing healthy and tasty lunches for elementary school children. Ana believes that everyone has a purpose in life and the only way to discover it is by sharing experiences with others. She enjoys interacting with  different people because there is so much to learn from them. She chooses to devote her time to Cooking Creations in Newark because she likes the environment and staff there- people are always happy and ready to work hard. Ana thinks of cooking as an act of love, and combining it with volunteering makes the act that much more powerful. According to Ana, a pinch of empathy, respect, and tolerance make food (and life!) taste better. To join Ana at Cooking Creations, or participate in one of our many other diverse volunteer opportunities, visit our Volunteer Opportunity Calendar

January 2015
Heba Abbas

Heba Abbas, Jersey Cares’ January 2015 Star of the Month, is a full-time laboratory manager who is constantly looking for new ways to get involved in the community. She has been a volunteer with us since April of 2013 and a project coordinator since February of 2014, and has completed over 40 hours of service. Heba has led a number of different opportunities, including several Marketplaces and Bingo Times, and has attended additional projects such as Hunger Helpers in Union City and Tutor and Mentor in West Orange. Recently, she has further proven her dedication to service by signing up to become a Service Works Skills Trainer helping young adults achieve their college and career goals. To learn more about the many diverse volunteer opportunities we offer, including the Service Works program, please visit our volunteer calendar. If you would like additional information on becoming a project coordinator (volunteer leader) contact us.