By JIM WILLIS
With Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, Red Bank’s Lunch Break is gearing up to make the holidays special for families in our area. And the current economic climate means more families than ever will need Lunch Break’s help, according to Gwen Love, the soup kitchen and social services nonprofit’s executive director.
In the past 30 days alone, the Lunch Break pantry has served 820 families. “That is a Lunch Break record,” says Love.
“We’ve just started giving out our holiday food bags last week,” says chef Tyrone Burr, “In one week we gave out 365 holiday bags. That’s three times as many as last year.”
Piehole stopped in at Lunch Break to see what neighbors around the Green could do to — as Love puts it — “share their blessings.”
“The biggest bang for the buck is to give us money,” says Kate McMahon, director of development for Lunch Break. “If someone goes out to the store, they could buy us a box of stuffing for $1.25. If they give us the $1.25 instead, with our bulk purchasing power we can get 2 or 3 boxes,” she says.
Another urgent need is for local families to participate in the Adopt a Family program for the holidays. Over 326 families have requested help from Lunch Break under the program, which enables parents to give their children Christmas presents, says Sharda Jatwani, program developer. Almost half of those families have not yet been adopted, and there are another 55 families on the waiting list to get into the program, says Jatwani.
“With everyone having Thanksgiving on their mind, they may not realize that we really need help for Christmas now,” says Love. “The urgency is that we need to distribute the gifts on December 14, and we’re still trying to get close to 200 families adopted.”
Love says that the increased need among area families is attributable to the economy.
“Unemployment benefits are running out for many people out there, food stamps have been cut,” says Love. “The jobs that people are getting now are not full-time, high-end paying jobs. If they’re getting jobs, they’re part-time with no benefits.”
McMahon adds that in 85 percent of the families who are coming in to collect food, one person in the family is working. “These are working people,” she says.
“We want to assure our families that their children will have a memorable holiday season,” says Love.
Neighbors who want to assist Lunch Break can learn more at its website or by calling 732-747-8577.