Monthly Archives: March 2013

Mentoring Madness Part II

Saturday Mornings: Trading in my Newspaper and Netflix ritual for a… Notebook?
So, this past three weekends, I (willingly) rose at 7:30 am, got myself to the campus of beautiful Centenary College, and was alert and ready to learn from 9am-1pm.
“But you already have a bachelor’s degree,” some would query (including, occasionally, my own psyche). “What would necessitate such a venture?”
Why will I find myself, on a weekend morning, in a classroom on the Centenary campus, notebook open and pen in hand?
The answer is, simply, that I will be learning something my undergraduate coursework did not teach me. I am learning how to be a mentor.
The truth is, I (naively) thought I already knew how to do this. But thanks to the informative, inspiring and eye-opening training course myself and the other AmeriCorps members from Pass it Along are enrolled in this month, I am learning that I in fact did not know what it actually took to be an effective mentor. As it turns out, there is quite a bit more involved in running, participating in, and supervising an effective mentoring program than often meets the eye.
Without giving too much of the training away, I will say that it is a more complicated process than just selecting an area of service, setting up a club or a program at a school or other organization, and sending volunteers out there “to mentor.” There should be trainings involved. There are more parts to the mentoring relationship than just a mentor and a mentee. There are limitless opportunities to make a difference. There’s a lot of responsibilities involved, but in turn, effective mentoring holds potentially tremendous rewards…not only for the mentee, but also for the mentor.  There’s also the tremendous satisfaction a mentor can glean by building and maintaining a well-planned and positive mentoring relationship.
I could go on, but really, you should just come out and see for yourself what a great program this is. The good people over at United Way of Northern NJ are putting on more of these trainings throughout the year, so get on over to their website (, check out the options, peruse the calendar, and get out there.
Oh, and did I mention that this training is free? Seriously. All you need to commit is your time, effort, and open mind. It is well worth your Saturday morning, or whatever time you choose to attend. Besides making a difference for other people, mentoring is also a way for you to enrich yourself. In the words of the United Way website we linked to earlier, “Give it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
-Maren Morsch, AmeriCorps Program Associate
Click here to see our mentoring opportunities

Nutrition Month and the Needy

It’s that time again: March. No, I am not going to be talking about NCAA March Madness basketball or the first days of springtime, but rather another, lesser-known but still wonderful attribute of this month. It is National Nutrition Month in the United States.
With all the work that Pass it Along does to help those who are hungry, it struck me as the right time to talk about the topic. I attended my first “Cooking for a Promise” event this past week, and I can say that I left touched by all the good things that the program accomplishes, but also more cognizant of the nutritional challenges faced by families that may be homeless or enrolled in supplemental nutrition programs.
The USDA figures suggest that today, one out of every nine people in this country are enrolled in the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. As financial stability issues in the U.S. and abroad continue concerning economists and financial markets, the economy stays in a seemingly unending state of flux. With the abundant uncertainties, the labor market is slow to add jobs, and the effect on the millions of people laid off during the recession is amplified as the long-term unemployed give up seeking work, and those newly without jobs use up their savings and eat (literally) into their assets. Both of those scenarios increase reliance on programs like SNAP.
However, the Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research recently looked at biometric data from food stamp recipients, and their conclusions were surprising. The study found that on average, female participants studied who were enrolled in the U.S. Food Stamp Program had a body mass index number at least 1 point higher than other people in similar socioeconomic brackets who did not receive food stamps. A BMI increase of 1 point meant that a woman of average height would be heavier than the control group by 5.8 pounds.
Additionally, food pantry programs, which may be utilized in conjunction or separately from federal nutrition assistance, are great supplemental resources for those who are experiencing hunger or are at risk of food insecurity. However, like many other non-profit sectors, donations to pantries suffer during times of economic hardship. Also, due to storage and food safety concerns, many pantries do not offer fresh produce, considered to be the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Frequently only canned, processed, and other shelf-stable varieties can be accepted as donations, and the balance of donations frequently tips toward the highly-processed and carbohydrate heavy, due to the stability of these foods, as well as their relative inexpensiveness.
So, while individuals and families may be receiving an adequate number of calories per meal thanks to these various forms of assistance, it is quite possible that they could still be undernourished. In fact, while it seems incongruous, is totally possible to be statistically overweight, yet still under- or malnourished.
The struggle to increase awareness about the risks of being overweight (increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, among other things), as well as the nutrition struggles facing families in need, is ongoing. Do your part to increase your awareness and the awareness of others around you. Volunteer at a hunger relief program. Donate no salt added, minimally processed foods, fruits and vegetables in their own juices instead of in heavy syrups, and lean proteins like canned tuna or chicken to help round out the assistance provided by your local food pantries. And finally, check out for more information on National Nutrition Month.  It might even inspire you to create something like the “Nutrition Week” held last week at Hardyston Middle School, hosted in conjunction with the Pass It Along chapter there!
(Sources:  Ohio State University data culled from “Does the U.S. Food Stamp Program contribute to adult weight gain?” study published in the July 2009 edition of Economics and Human Biology; additional info from “Do food stamps lead to obesity?” blog from Lynne Peeples,  published by Scientific American.)
Written by Maren Morsch, AmeriCorps Program Associate

Fashionable Fundraising

As people flooded into the Stanhope House for the Concert for Pass It Along, they discovered there was even more to offer than just the music that drew them there.  In the back lounge, the silent auction was packed with goodies for every interest, taste, and price range; the bands had merchandise tables loaded down with their tee shirts and every manner of design and color of CD imaginable; and two young boys stood at a table, with brightly colored duct tape displayed before them.  Not in rolls, but rather crafted into fun and durable wallets.
The Rose Bros Duct Tape Wallets were created by Shaun and Justin Rosenthal at the end of 2012 as a hobby that quickly moved into more as they saw what they could do with their business.  Rather than keeping the profits, they turned their art into a fundraiser for Pass It Along, with one dollar of every purchase going to the nonprofit.  The wallets (and soon, luggage tags and sunglass cases) come in dozens of patterns and colors, from tie-dye to your favorite sports teams.
Justin, a 7th grader at Sparta Middle School, and Shawn, a 5th grader at Helen Morgan School, are both part of the Sparta TREPS program, which challenges the members to become young entrepreneurs by creating and selling something of their own.  This project, which so far has helped raise $250 for Pass It Along, is a good sign of their future successes.
The Rose Bro’s customer service is fantastic, so if you don’t see something you like, they will create something to your desires, usually for no additional cost.  And shipping is free! Wallets start at just $5, and you can see all the designs and purchase your own at, through email at or, and at local Sparta stores Lake Mohawk Florist and Salon Oasis.

The Recycler Drops the “R” for awhile: PIA ventures into E-Cycling

If there is one thing that people should know about me, it is that I’m a recycler. A rabid recycler.  To the point where it borders on the absurd. If you don’t know what I mean by this when I meet you, there’s not doubt in my mind you’ll soon find out (just ask the other AmeriCorps girls!). (AmeriCorps Poster’s note:  Everything she says is true.) I used to cart home recycling from college because I didn’t believe the custodians were sorting or handling it properly…I was wholly convinced it was getting mixed up with the colossal mountains of campus garbage that piled up weekly. I hold on to things that are long past their usefulness in my life until I can find a second home or appropriate cause to donate them to, til I can ensure they have a home after they leave my closet/basement/bookshelf/etc. I am that annoying person blocking the isle in the grocery store while I attempt to read those microscopic numbers inside the itty-bitty recycling sign on the underside of food containers and cleaning supplies.
Yup. That’s me.
That being said, I was both taken aback and excited when, on my way around the Pass it Along office, I noticed just how much old—nay, ancient—technology was just hanging out, occupying valuable storage space, and holding untold value in recycling and repurposing potential. It has become part of my mission here to help PIA shed this ancient e-junk in a responsible (and lucrative!) manner.
Since we are a 501c3 non-profit, local e-waste recycling company CLR Solutions has graciously offered to donate a portion of the profit it makes from recycling our e-waste back to our program! While some technology requires money be spent to cover the costs of repurposing or recycling it, like those space-hogging CRT monitors and old school tube televisions, much of the e-junk we have laying around can be retrofitted or recycled for a profit. The environment wins (less toxic waste in landfills, reduction in groundwater contamination); the company wins (they make a profit for “flipping” or recycling the items); and Pass it Along wins (we get a little return for our efforts!).
With the “spring cleaning” of Pass it Along underway, we started thinking that there must be lots of people in the community that feel like we do right now: Out with the old…responsibly! With that in mind, we are looking to expand our e-waste recycling efforts in the springtime with a collection or drive that would benefit Pass it Along.
If you or anyone you know would like to work with us to organize an e-waste recycling event for the local area in the upcoming months, please let me know. Send me an email:, or give us a shout in the office: 973-726-9777.
 -Maren Morsch, AmeriCorps Program Associate
Until then…Happy recycling!