Author Archives: lnicolaison

Holiday and Outreach Event – December 14

Holiday Party

RPCVs, Family, Friends & Others

Reformed Church of
Highland Park

19 S 2nd Avenue
Highland Park, 08904

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), individuals interested in serving in the Peace Corps, as well as family and friends are welcome to celebrate the holiday season get-together in Highland Park, NJ. Please join us to enjoy the decorations, music, fine food and dancing.

Dr. Bishnu Maya Pariyar will be attending the event and giving a presentation about her life in Nepal and the influence of a Peace Corps Volunteer there.

International Buffet – Pot Luck
Bringing a food or beverage (non-alcoholic) you experienced in your Country of Service is encouraged but any contributions are welcomed.

The Reformed Church of Highland Park has a thrift shop on site.
If you have any clothes you no longer need (clean & in good condition) please bring them to the holiday gathering to be donated to the church’s thrift store.

There is a parking area and entrance at the back of the church accessible off Magnolia Street

Questions, contact Doug Garatina

Change the Lives – Change the World

2019 Fundraising Campaign

It’s time again to REACH OUT to our community of returned volunteers for important & needed financial support!

RPCV-NJ relies on your support to: 

1. Fund current projects of Peace Corps volunteers from NJ,
2. Provide support to local organizations with missions consistent with RPCV-NJ’s mission,
3. Conduct panel discussions and presentations to educate New Jerseyans and elected representatives about the importance that Peace Corps has for New Jersey and for our nation; and
4. Organize and host gatherings throughout the state that bring together RPCV’s from ALL decades for networking, storytelling and sharing of experiences.

Your contributions make a grass-roots difference!
If available, request matching funds from your employer. 
Your contributions go a long way to enable current volunteers and RPCVs who hail from New Jersey to continue the Peace Corps’ mission of service, both internationally and domestically (through Peace Corps’ third goal of domestic service and awareness).
You can donate using: 
1. Donate button on our website
2. The form on our website and mail in with a check
3. Direct payment from your bank account after you register with your bank to send funds using Zelle to
Take care to spell this email address exactly as provided. 
4.The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) website 
RPCV-NJ is a 501(c)(3) organization and all donations are fully tax deductible.

Farm Gleaning – October 26

Saturday, October 26th
Eastmont Orchards
181 County Road 537
Colts Neck, NJ 07722

We will be farm gleaning by picking apples for local food banks and pantries. We are asking for help by picking apples and carrying baskets of apples to and from the nearby truck.

All ages are welcome to join us.
We hope to see you there!

RSVP to Kelly Matthews

2020 RPCV International Calendars Available


RPCV-NJ is working in partnership with RPCVs of Wisconsin-Madison as a local provider to distribute their International Calendars.

Funds raised from the sale of these calendars in NJ will support RPCV-NJ activities including Project Support, Volunteer/Service Activities, Social Events and the pursuit of the Peace Corps Third Goal which the distribution of these calendars contributes to.

Consider buying these high quality, informative calendars for family, friends, teachers etc.

Calendar Ordering

Qty    Cost w/Shipping & Handling

1        $14 ($12 + $2 S&H)

2        $27 ($24 + $3 S7H)

3        $44 ($36 + $8 S&H)

Postage increases significantly when weight exceeds 13oz.

4        $56 ($48 + $8 S&H)

5        $68 ($60 + $8 S&H)


Send email to indicating the number of calendars ordered and provide mailing address and phone number (if  any question arises) then:


Use one of two methods:

  1. Use Zelle through your bank (if your bank uses Zelle, you just have to complete a simple register with the the bank for that function) by sending funds to: (take care to type the email address exactly as provided)
  2. Make check out to RPCV-NJ and mail it to:


26 Parker Street, Belvidere, NJ 07823

Questions: email

RPCV Family & Friends Octoberfest Celebration – October 6

Sunday, October 6, 2019
11 am to 4 pm


Liberty State Park
(Area “J” on Map)
Picnic Area #7
Jersey City

Please join us at our first Octoberfest Celebration.  It will be a POTLUCK event similar to our annual picnic, but at this event we are collaborating with the New York City Peace Corps Association so there should be many new people to meet.


Please bring your own non-alcoholic beverages and some type of potluck food to share with others. International dishes are welcome.

Please be aware that there is no electricity at the site but some dishes can be warmed and/or cooked on a large charcoal grill that we will be operating.

Open field next to picnic area with 8 large picnic tables.

Bring Kites, Games, Frisbees, Balls etc. Plenty of Room for Blankets & Chairs

In order to receive an early morning notification of a cancellation due to inclement weather that day, it is necessary for you to RSVP to Doug Garatina by October 1 at:

This event is weather dependent.

If the weather looks questionable, look on the RPCV-NJ Facebook Page by 9am that morning for updated information.

RPCV-NJ Picnic and Send-Off Photo Recap

Thank you to everyone who attended our 9th annual Picnic and Send-Off at Terhune Orchards on June 2, 2019.

Hackensack Riverkeeper’s “Meadowlands Discovery Nature Tour” – September 22

Hackensack Riverkeeper’s “Meadowlands Discovery Nature Tour”

Sunday, September 22, 2019 @ Noon

(2 & 1/2 Hour Tour)

$30 per seat

First-Come-First Served!

Maximum of 12 people (8 people already signed up)

Minimum Age =10

Ethnic meal after tour (cost of meal is extra)

Contact Doug at by July 31

Boat Tour Details:

Join us for a two and a half hour guided boat tour down the Hackensack River into the Meadowlands to see a variety of wildlife and plants and learn about the history of the area. Very few people get to see this natural area which is so close to New York City.

After the tour we will go to an ethnic restaurant (not included in the cost of the tour) for a relaxing and delicious meal.  The boat will accommodate 12 people and 8 people have already signed up, leaving only 4 remaining seats. So, don’t hesitate – secure your seat(s) as soon as possible (first-come-first served) by contacting Doug at by July 31 at the latest. He will then tell you how to pay and will provide further information about the trip.

ORIGINS of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey (RPCV-NJ) & NJ RPCVs role in establishing the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)

The origins of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey, Inc. (RPCV-NJ) have been explored recently. At the March 2019 RPCV-NJ Annual Meeting, Ed Henry gave a presentation and it was noted that in the late 1970s Ed had arranged for a gathering in South Orange.  Ed stated later that it was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall in South Orange.  That gathering was very well attended. Apparently Ruth Bednarz capitalized on the energy and enthusiasm at that gathering in South Orange and initiated the establishment of a formal organization.

Some background on the history of the Peace Corps that ties into RAV-NJ (Returned ACTION Volunteers)/RPCV-NJ:  In 1971 the United States established ACTION during President Richard Nixon’s first term as the “federal domestic volunteer agency” and Nixon, an opponent of the Peace Corps, brought it under the umbrella agency ACTION.

President Jimmy Carter, an advocate of the program, said that his mother, who had served as a nurse in the program, had “one of the most glorious experiences of her life” in the Peace Corps. In 1979, he made it fully autonomous in an executive order. This independent status was further secured by 1981 legislation making the organization an independent federal agency.

The Returned Action Volunteers of New Jersey, Inc. (RAV-NJ) was formally established as a corporation in the State of New Jersey in July 1979. The individuals who were documented as the initial Board of Trustees of the RAV-NJ are as follows:  Edward G. Henry (South Orange, NJ), Ruth J. Bednarz (New York, NY), James E. Hill (Westfield, NJ) and Karen Jones (Dumont, NJ).  These four Trustees and Pamela Bowman (Berkeley Heights, NJ) were the undersigned incorporators of the organization.

In February 1983, the certificate of incorporation was amended to change the organization’s name to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey under signature of Sergio Leone, President, and Geraldine Gillio, Secretary, with associated changes to the bylaws which are in place today.

As of the meeting date, contact had not been established with Ruth Bednarz but Jim Hill stated, “I remember Ruth Bednarz very well as she was our first President. She is an RPCV who served in Malaysia. She was the real mover and shaker. Ed and I did our best to keep up with her. Ed was Treasurer, I think, or VP, and I was in charge of the Social Committee.” Pam Bowman described Ruth as a “a real mover and a shaker – and quite a delegator.” Pam recalls that the original group that set things in motion had the idea of a speaker’s bureau which she participated in.  As a result of a discussion in January 2019 about the current Oral History Archive Project (provide link) recorded radio interviews (on cassette tape) in Jim Hill’s possession were revealed earlier this year and included the following interviews from the late 1970s and must have fallen under this speaker’s bureau initiative:

WJDM (Elizabeth station at that time) – April 19, 1979

Jim Hill (Togo) & Pam Bowman (Jamaica)

WSOU- News 89.5FM – Seton Hall University

Returned Action/Returned Peace Corps/Vista Volunteer Interviews

Jim Hill (Togo) & Ed Henry (Afghanistan)

Karen Jones– Paraguay (1973-76) & David Nebret– Paraguay (1976-78)

Sergio Leone (Micronesia)

Following the RPCV-NJ annual meeting Ruth Bednarz was found. Ruth, along with Ed Henry, was instrumental in establishing the Returned Action Volunteers of New Jersey (RAV-NJ), later to become the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of NJ (RPCV-NJ) and the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (NCRPCV) which later became the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA).  In her personal records she found photos and newsletters.

rpcv newsletter

In Vol. 1 No. 1 July 1980 newsletter of the National Council, formed in October 1979, the officers of the organization were listed as:  Greg Flakus- President, Ruth Bednarz– Vice President, Roy Thomasson- Treasurer and Phil Peters, Secretary. A lead article in the newsletter reported on the first and second NCRPCV convention held:

The second NCRPCV Convention was held in Omaha, NE at the Hilton Hotel in conjunction with the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Third World Conference, October 24-27, 1979. The planning for the convention and the preparation of the proposed charter had been done by a five-person task force steering committee elected at the first convention in October 1978.  The five persons were: Jody Rohe of Omaha, Greg Flakus of Omaha, Herman DeBose of Los Angeles, Ed Henry of South Orange of NJ, and Fred Thompson of Brimson, Minnesota.

The newsletter also included reports from RPCV groups around the country including North Carolina, Chicago, Minnesota, Texas, Washington, DC, Nebraska and New Jersey, the later provided by Ed Henry, c/o RAV-NJ Teaneck, NJ:

In the spring of 1978 a social get-together was held for former Peace Corps and VISTA volunteers in South Orange, NJ, the result of a blind mailing to former volunteers in the area done by the New York Area ACTION office. A coordinating committee was formed, and the history of the Returned ACTION Volunteers of New Jersey had begun.

Our first programs in that first year included a Speaker’s Bureau and a language bank. Our members appeared on a series of live radio interviews on a local college station and spoke to local groups and schools. Our language bank proved successful on a limited basis providing translation and interpreting services to the people in the North Jersey area. Social events were held for members throughout the year and several issues of a newsletter were published.

1979 marked a period of growth to 450 members; we applied for and gained non-profit status and restructured the organization to involve more RAVs in all parts of the state. Our activities expanded to include working with the handicapped, providing families for foreign students and aiding Indo-Chinese refugees through our first grant monies. Our future plans include working for a greater degree of quality in our existing programs and continuing to develop programs which will tap the resources that have been developed by Peace Corps and VISTA volunteers.

The Editorial in that first newsletter was written by Ruth Bednarz and reproduced here:

It gives me great pleasure to introduce this first issue of the NCRPCV Newsletter. After many months and with the cooperation of many Peace Corps volunteers and the former Volunteer Services office of ACTION, this newsletter serves to announce the formation of the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

When the National Council was formed in October 1979, its executive committee proposed that a periodic newsletter should serve as a discussion forum and a communications link for returned volunteers and their organizations – and that is how we propose to utilize these pages.

Scattered groups of volunteers across the nation have been in existence since the mid-60’s. Some of these groups have grown into large complex service organizations; other groups are small and more recently formed; many areas have former volunteers who are not organized at all.

The National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers is serving as a confederation of those former volunteer groups and individuals. Its aim is to provide a focal point for unified activities of local former volunteers and their organizations and can help assure the realization of the goals for which the Peace Corps was created.

We are a valuable national resource.  Let us collectively use our experiences and talents, and share our ideas and programs for the betterment of the communities in which we live and the world of the future which we will help to create.

In Vol. 1 No. 3 Spring 1981 of the National Council Newsletter the first published list of  Affiliated Groups was found:

  • Returned Action Volunteers/ New Jersey
  • Peace Corps Alumni North Carolina East
  • Kansas City Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
  • Community Volunteers/Southern California, Inc.
  • Chicago Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
  • Former Peace Corps/VISTA Volunteers of Texas
  • Southern California Peace Corps Service Council
  • ACTION Alumni Association of the Greater Washington Area
  • Nebraska Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
  • Piedmont North Carolina Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
  • Minnesota Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

Thanks to RPCVs from New Jersey who put in the time and effort to establish RAV-NJ/RPCV-NJ as well as the NCRPCV/NPCA and especially to Ruth Bednarz for saving these historic newsletters which documented the origins and initial activities of these two organizations.

Christie Musa, President

If anyone has information to add to the history of RPCV-NJ please email