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A Day of Service

Atlantic County Magazine – GACCA Article

Print Date 1.15.2021

By Judy Brenna

If you are one of the populous who made that special New Year’s wish on December 31st for a better existence after a year of never-ending ((insert expletives here)) chaos and heartache, you may have been a touch disappointed by last week’s event at the Capitol building ((as everyone’s shoulders clench)). Relax, I’m not going to talk politics, however, the event that occurred caused an enormous amount of fear and general discomfort for many Americans. What I do want to talk about actually has little to do with last week, rather I’d like to reflect on how we, as a species, have a tendency to sit back and wait for something good to happen, and then when it doesn’t, we form grandiose negative opinions as if we had an active participation in it to begin with, as opposed to actively participating to make the change. I counted 38 different Facebook status updates, all paraphrasing each other “well, so much for 2021”. One event should not define an entire year. I ask you, what are you going to actively do to create change for the better this year? Granted, if your New Year’s wish was for a million dollars, I’m not saying you should go out there and actively rob a bank. Nor am I saying, if you wished to be a movie star, to actively kidnap a big movie producer off the corner of 81st and Central Park West and force her into the trunk of your Nissan Kicks, then drive her to an abandoned warehouse in Newark where you then hold her at gun point, threatening to pull out her fingernails one by one, until she acquiesces and casts you in her next big blockbuster. ((awkward silence)). What I’m saying is, WE make the change for the better. And maybe stop wishing for weird wishes ((slowly putting away magic 8 ball)).

The term “Active Change” is synonymous with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Contrary to the majority of Americans, MLK Day is in fact not a day dedicated to crazy car sales or shopping extravaganzas, nor is it a day of rest after a late Sunday night party. MLK Day traditionally is a “Day of Service”, which fosters his legacy by transforming the federal holiday into a national day of community service grounded in his teachings of nonviolence and social justice. Given last week’s event… How apropos. With the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life on the horizon, I thought it would be helpful to share with you a list of local volunteer organizations, so you can give back, help others, which will then make YOU happy, which will then potentially open the door for more positivity in your life in 2021. Why does volunteering make you happy? Because science! ((pulling down projector screen)) We are pack animals, therefore being around people is comforting. Add helping others for zero personal gain to the mix, the brain releases serotonin which then triggers your brain to pull the strings attached to your face muscles upward. Volunteering makes you happy.

Hedging forward, Atlantic City Rescue Mission, located at 2009 Bacharach Boulevard in Atlantic City, fosters several programs, all in the hopes of aiding the local poor and those bruised by addictive lifestyles, through the provision of food, shelter, clothing, counseling and other structured programs. A handful of these programs are 100% volunteer, so they are always looking for good human beings to pitch in. If you are interested in volunteering for any of their services all you have to do is email and start your orientation process. Fun side fact, volunteering in a group setting makes you even happier. So instead of a beer pong tournament in your basement, maybe ask your friends to get involved with you.

Youth Advocate Program of Atlantic City is also a great cause. In the sage words of the late great Whitney Houston, “children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” They’re the ones that are going to have to clean up the messes we created so helping to nurture them and grow into decent human beings is important, and quite honestly the right thing to do. And remember, we ALL benefit from a stronger, more resilient society. YAP services not only dramatically reduce the number of young people in institutions, but they also strengthen the foundation of young people from within their homes and communities, through repairing broken relationships, and connecting youth to new supportive people, places, and activities. So! Help the kids. There are so many ways you can help too. You can become an ambassador, volunteer your services, donate money, become an advocate, and even share your own stories which will then inspire and help. Go to and see how you can help.

The Oceanside I Family Success Center is a community-based, family-centered neighborhood gathering place, located in the heart of uptown Atlantic City, NJ. Community residents can show up for family support, interactive workshops, activities, and groups. Their activities are always free and open to all families in the community. There are several ways you can help. You can apply to join the advisory board, which is made up of individuals who understand the needs of the community and work towards creating programming that fits these needs. You can lead a workshop, and you can also share your knowledge with adults and youth as they are in need of individuals from the community to help with tutoring, ESL, GED, and homework assistance for children. Click on to find our more.

Volunteers play a vital role in helping the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge fulfill its mission of conserving, protecting and enhancing America’s fish, wildlife, and plants, and their habitats. Through the help provided by volunteers, service employees can accomplish jobs that would otherwise not get done because of funding or personnel limitations. That’s why they rely so much on the community for volunteer efforts. They are now accepting applications for the visitor information center, environmental education, and all their special events. Go to for more information.

One more organization I’d like to discuss, Gilda’s Club of South Jersey, founded in memory of comedienne Gilda Radner. Each year in our region, cancer touches thousands of men, women and children. Its impact can be devastating to the individual and their family. But at Gilda's Club, individuals and families are receiving the information, guidance, laughter, and most importantly, the support they need to live their lives with cancer, whatever the outcome, at no cost. Gilda's Club South Jersey's mission is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. With headquarters in Linwood, NJ, one of the essential, highly valued parts of the Gilda’s Club community and program, is the volunteer effort. There are many ways to help, whether you are manning the phones, leading a class, working a fundraiser or just chatting with a member. I actually just put in an application. For more information, contact Samantha Kurtz-Seif Program Manager & Volunteer Coordinator at (609) 926-2699.

I’m stepping off my soap box now. I have a cramp in my leg and I’m hungry. Go out there and get the fuzzies. Until next week … #stayjerseystrong.

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