It’s being framed by Calvary Baptist Church as “A Night to Remember” — an opportunity for both somber reflection and the season’s rejoicing, rooted in a community’s shared tragedy, but setting its sights on the star of peace and healing.
When Rev. Dr. Kenneth McGhee Jr. and the congregation of the River Street church open their doors to all members of the Red Bank community this Friday evening, the occasion will be a special pre-Christmas celebration of fellowship and Yuletide spirit — one that incorporates a tribute to Red Bank Middle School Jonelle Melton, and an expression of support for her family.
As reported here by redbankgreen in November, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office recently announced the indictments of three Asbury Park men in the September, 2009 murder of Melton. The 33-year-old social studies teacher at Red Bank Middle School was killed in her Neptune home in what Acting Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni characterized as a “mistake” by the alleged would-be burglars of a neighboring apartment.
A series of community tributes to the slain educator raised money for a Student Activity Fund named in her honor — and a lengthy investigation led to the three suspects, all of whom were in custody on unrelated charges.
In a statement on Friday’s 6:30 pm service, Calvary announced the event as a way “to acknowledge the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office for their dedicated efforts in solving this case while allowing students, teachers, community members and others to share in our Christmas celebration.” Representatives from the Prosecutor’s Office have been invited to attend, as have Mayor Pasquale Menna and municipal officials, members of the borough Board of Education, Melton’s fellow teachers and former students.
Honored guests will be members of Jonelle Melton’s family, with the church working alongside the borough-based grassroots initiative the Count the Children Movement to “provide continued support for the family of the beloved Red Bank school teacher during this holiday through fellowship.” Guest speakers, musical performers and a “a message of purpose” are promised during Friday evening’s service, for which additional information is available by contacting Pastor McGhee at (732) 741-7081, or Linda Clark at (732)890-2939.