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

Exceeding expectations and inspiring others through service...

 

Kara Gropler (March 2020)

Get to know Kara Gropler!

Kara Gropler began her journey as a Project Coordinator in early 2014, but she has been an avid volunteer since 2012. Since then she has become a committed and dedicated P.C. who is extremely involved within the community.  When we asked Kara to tell us what led her to start volunteering with Jersey Cares, she said;

“I started volunteering through Jersey Cares about 9 years ago simply because I wanted to fill my spare time by working with children who do not have the same resources and social equity that I experience each day. I was a young professional in the business world, and everywhere I went I saw people like myself who had the same advantages that I had, and how competitive that world is. With NJ being such a diverse state, I knew that wasn’t the norm and that wasn’t fair. I googled a few things, and Jersey Cares came up as the largest non-profit resource provider in the state and I saw the number of opportunities that existed through them alone. I was lucky – I found a volunteer opportunity that resonated with me fairly quickly, which was Tutor and Mentor with NJ SEEDs.

There is a universal truth about volunteering – we start out doing it because we want to help others feel better, heard, cared for, etc. We wind up making ourselves feel more alive in return, knowing that we helped in some small way to bridge a gap with another human being. It’s the foundation of our humanity.”

Since becoming a volunteer and Project Coordinator, Kara has devoted her time to a wide variety of projects.  These include Caring Closet in Madison, Jersey Cares Collection Drives, and Marketplace in Newark. When asked what she enjoys most about her two favorite opportunities, Tutor and Mentor in West Orange and Tutor and Mentor in Morristown, Kara explained;

“I’m partial to Tutor and Mentor. The students teach us so much – they work tirelessly, they support each other, they dream big, and they don’t let fear stop them. They’re wise beyond their years. They can teach most adults a thing or two with just those simple lessons. Working with them has made me happier in return – children still have a wide-eyed innocence underneath their ambition. We lose that as adults. Working with these students, we learn how hard they have to work in their local districts that have limited resources, and how many extra hours they and their families sacrifice for them to be part of Tutor and Mentor on Saturdays. They’re up before sunrise on those Saturdays getting ready for tutoring. Their parents are managing a lot sometimes just to get them to school if they aren’t bused, sometimes doing so after working the night shift. It’s so easy for us to take those things for granted when we come from places that were more equitable to begin with.”

When not volunteering, Kara works for a MedTech startup in Marketing where she gets to help people who have cancer, and hopes over time to be able to do more in her career to bring equity to childhood education and public health.   In her free time, Kara enjoys staying active, especially through distance running, cycling, and CrossFit. Kara spends the rest of her free time with her family and friends, as “time is one of our most precious possessions and having a community to share it with makes all the difference.”

Inspired by Kara’s story and interested in becoming a Jersey Cares volunteer or Project Coordinator? Click here for more information!

 

Sandy Chotail (February 2020)

Get to know Sandy Chotai!

Sandy began volunteering with Jersey Cares in May 2019 and became a dedicated Project Coordinator this past August.  Having both volunteered and led opportunities as a Project Coordinator, we asked Sandy what tips he has for new volunteers;

Volunteer - go out there and don’t be shy. Blend in! Find different things to do and be a part of it! There’s more to these opportunities than meets the eye. Get involved. Once you get to know the people, get to know them further. Chat with them about what they like. You meet so many different people and you start to build connections. Ask them about their families, friends, siblings and their life. It gets them to talk about themselves and brings up memories for them. Mingle – they are human! Don’t think of the opportunities as “okay I need volunteer hours”, actually get to know them. Be in the moment. Think of it holistically. You aren’t just there to call bingo numbers, for instance – it’s a bigger purpose.”

Since becoming a volunteer and Project Coordinator, Sandy has split his time volunteering between Games Galore and More in Hanover and Games Galore in Wayne. When asked what he enjoyed most about these opportunities, Sandy explained;

“I love both opportunities. I enjoyed Games Galore and More in Hanover because we get to hang out with the residents for a bit doing arts and crafts. The opportunity is so meaningful, and you can spend so much more time with residents. When I first started as a volunteer, I started off in a more detached way but then as we went along, we got more connected. I realized that we are lightening up their lives. These are real people. When you help others, you are actually helping yourself. That point got driven home through my service at these projects.”

When not volunteering, Sandy enjoys spending time with his three children (his 15-year-old son got him involved in volunteering in the first place) and is an avid reader.  Sandy also enjoys traveling and visiting new places and he hopes to also be able to hone his golf skills, as he enjoys the strategy of the game.

Enjoyed reading Sandy’s story and interested in becoming a Jersey Cares volunteer or Project Coordinator? Click here for more information!

 

Monica Sharma (January 2020)

A huge HELLO to Monica Sharma!

Monica Sharma joined Jersey Cares as a volunteer a year ago and became a Project Coordinator last April. Since then, Monica hit the ground running and has been extremely involved in a wide variety of opportunities. When asking Monica why she decided to become involved with Jersey Cares, she responded;

“I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, and I wanted to continue to stay involved after college when I returned home to New Jersey. Jersey Cares seemed like a perfect fit for anyone with a busy schedule who wants to make a meaningful impact. I found it really exciting that through a simple portal system, I could register for so many different opportunities ranging from tutoring and mentoring children from low-income communities to sorting through donations of professional clothes to offer to women. I also saw joining the organization as a great way to make friends of all ages who are similarly passionate about strengthening the community.”

Throughout her time as a volunteer and Project Coordinator, Monica has volunteered at Games Galore and More in Hanover, Donation Sorting in Short Hills, Brick City Block Party in Newark, Caring Closet in Madison, Hunger Helpers in Newark, Lights On in Newark, and countless other opportunities. When we asked her about her favorite project, Monica said;

“My favorite opportunity so far is Games Galore and More in Hanover, where I lead bingo and trivia to keep residents engaged and provide companionship that hopefully enhances the residents quality of life. These interactions have improved my understanding of the daily struggles of aging populations as I see how difficult it is to be confined to a wheelchair and increasingly dependent on others. I really like connecting with people from different backgrounds and helping to develop targeted solutions for the challenges they face. Learning about the circumstances of those with less privilege is a very humbling experience that has expanded my world view, and I find it incredibly rewarding to empower others to be their best selves.”

Outside of volunteering with Jersey Cares, Monica is an aspiring physician who is interested in serving as a clinician, scientist, and educator all in one! She has a strong passion for health and wellness, and is currently involved in research that has applications to neurodegenerative disease. Monica loves to stay active and some of her favorite hobbies include yoga, CrossFit, tennis, meditation, reading, traveling, and playing piano and guitar.

Loved Monica’s story and interested in becoming a Jersey Cares volunteer, or even consider becoming a volunteer leader through our Project Coordinator program? Click here for more information!

 

Volunteer Stars of 2019

Volunteer Stars of 2018

Volunteer Stars of 2017

Volunteer Stars of 2016