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 rpcvnj.social@gmail.com 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  rpcvnj.social@gmail.com 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 rpcvnj.president@gmail.com

RPCV NJ Picnic – June 2


Terhune Orchards
330 Cold Soil Road
Princeton, NJ 08540

RPCV-NJ & NJ’s Peace Corps Recruiter(s) are collaborating on an event to combine:

* 9th annual RCPV picnic,
* Welcome Back recently returned volunteers,
* Send Off individuals about to leave for their Peace Corps service.

10 – 10:30 
Reception with refreshments
& country of service table displays
10:30 – 11:30 RPCV Panel
(application process & service discussion)
11:30 – 12:00  Candle Ceremony
(Send off for new PCVs/ PC invitees)
12:00– 3:00 (and beyond)
International Buffet – Potluck Picnic

The event is open to all RPCVs, PC invitees, friends & family as well as anyone interested in possibly joining the Peace Corps.

Bikes will be collected to donate to the Bike Exchange in Trenton, benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Mercer County
Bring your used bike (in good condition) to the event & you will be directed where to leave it.

RSVP: Doug Garatina at rpcvnj.social@gmail.com

Outreach Opportunity – 4H Youth Leadership Camp


Save the Dates
 JUNE 25 & 26, 2019

June 25-26, NJ 4-H is conducting a youth leadership “camp” on the campus of Rutgers University.

The theme this year is
Solutions to World Food Issues.”

The goal is to share with young people the importance of food security in the world.
Are there are any available Returned Peace Corps volunteers who could both
a) share their experiences and
b) do a 45 min – 1 hour session/program with the
kids (ages 9-12).

RPCVs are sought who worked in agriculture and/or who can speak to global food security issues and who feel comfortable speaking to a youth audience.
As much as possible, the aim is to have some sort of a hands-on/interactive program.

This outreach opportunity is being pursued in cooperation with:

Matthew Newman (RPCV Albania)
4-H Agent/CEDH – Monmouth County
Rutgers Cooperation Extension

If you can participate in this program, please send a note to rpcvnj.outreach@gmail.com and Matt will get back to you.

Support RPCV-NJ on Amazon Smile

What is AmazonSmile?
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose to support RPCV-NJ by searching for “Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey”

How do I shop at AmazonSmile?
To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to smile.amazon.com from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to smile.amazon.com to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.

Which products on AmazonSmile are eligible for charitable donations?
Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. Recurring Subscribe-and-Save purchases and subscription renewals are not currently eligible.

Can I use my existing Amazon.com account on AmazonSmile?
Yes, you use the same account on Amazon.com and AmazonSmile. Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same.

How do I select a charitable organization to support when shopping on AmazonSmile?
On your first visit to AmazonSmile smile.amazon.com, you need to select a charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping.  Search for “Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey” for your charity.
Amazon will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation.

Can I change my charity?
Yes, you can change your charity any time. Your AmazonSmile purchases after the change count towards your newly selected charity. To change your charity, sign in to smile.amazon.com on your desktop or mobile phone browser and simply select “Change your Charity” in “Your Account.”

For more information visit: About Amazon Smile

RPCV-NJ Treasurer Sought

Do you have some time to contribute to RPCV-NJ?

The Treasurer position will be vacated in June, allowing time to get familiar with the position before then.

RPCV-NJ Treasury is not complex but good bookkeeping skills and attentiveness to maintaining related documentation are required.

Work can all be done from home except attendance at quarterly Board Meetings. Timely communication (primarily email) with Board members is essential.

If interested, please contact: rpcvnj.president@gmail.com

Outreach/Third Goal Updates!

RPCV-NJ is now a partner supporting the production of this documentary
on the Peace Corps. This film will formally premiere on September 22nd in Washington, DC and screenings in NJ are being pursued.
RPCV-NJ is a charter member of this Museum to help extend the reach of Peace Corps beyond international host communities and individual volunteers.
RPCV-NJ is participating in this project as of November 2018 by recording interviews of NJ RPCVs to preserve the legacy of the Peace Corps as experienced and articulated by individual Peace Corps volunteers and staff. These interviews are being archived at the John F. Kennedy presidential library and museum in Boston.
RPCV-NJ became an official local seller of the International Calendars produced by RPCV Wisconsin- Madison to promote cultural understanding and awareness of international issues. A pilot program took place in the fall of 2018 and was very successful. Enhanced sales will take place beginning mid 2019 for the sale/distribution of the 2020 calendars.