LunchBreakThe numbers speak for themselves: more than 61,000 hot meals served up in 2013 alone, to neighbors in need from all over Monmouth County (and beyond its borders). Over 600 area families assisted each month with groceries from the food pantry — and, perhaps most timely and telling,  the statistic that shows 85 percent of all clients served currently holding a full time job.

Even more priceless beyond numbers is the fact that, in the words of Lunch Break director Gwendolyn O. Love, “all of our services are free of charge, provided in an atmosphere of kindness, dignity and respect.” Established over 30 years ago by the late Norma Todd and a committed group of area churches and bsuinesses, the Red Bank-based nonprofit has expanded the old fashioned archetype of a “soup kitchen” operation to include senior gift programs, clothing drives, and employment assistance — and the busy building on Drs. James Parker Boulevard can be the scene for anything from cooking classes and social services counseling, to movie nights and an in-house Internet Cafe.

As a trusted, well-organized entity that depends on private donations for its own survival, Lunch Break is among several area charities taking part in the OceanFirst Charity Challenge campaign, a crowdsourcing endeavor in which the central New Jersey bank will award $10,000 to the participating organization that raises the most independent contributions by May 9, 2014. Coordinated via Crowdrise, the campaign kicked off on April 14, and features a series of weekly Bonus Challenges in which participants can win smaller Good Neighbor Grants and other rewards, for meeting weekly fundraising benchmarks.

As director Love points out, “every donation, big or small, makes a difference,” and interested donors can go here for a chance to make a contribution of any amount. Tallies show the Lunch Break team occupying fifth place in the Charity Challenge, with a significant gap between their fundraising total and that of the current leader, and just over two weeks left in the campaign. Donors who wish to take their generosity to the next level can click “Fundraise for this campaign” to set up their own account which, Love explains, “you can share with all of your family and friends, so that you can raise money for our cause too.”