Lunch Break Executive Director Gwen Love, above, welcomed more than 100 guests as the Red Bank social services nonprofit kicked off a $12 million expansion of its Red Bank home Thursday.

New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy with Mayor Pasquale Menna, above. Below former council member Juanita Lewis, who serves as president of Lunch Break’s board of trustees, with former council member Sharon Lee. (Rendering by Kellenyi Johnson Wagner. Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

The two-story addition to Lunch Break’s existing facilities at 121 Drs. James Parker Boulevard will increase the building area to 8,000 square feet, from 3,000.

The larger building is needed to address a growing lack of food security in Red Bank and throughout Monmouth County, Love told the gathering of volunteers, staff members, donors and elected officials.

Through the pandemic, Lunch Break adapted and didn’t miss a single day of providing needed meals, said Love, addressing attendees gathered under a wind-buffeted tent.

In addition, the organization expanded the geographic reach of its homebound meals program and distributed some $900,000 in donated funds to help families pay living expenses, she said.

Lunch Break also modified its building expansion plans to ensure the operation can continue in the event of another pandemic. “We want to be ready,” Love said.

Now, “I want to assure everyone who hears my voice that, with certainty, we are renewing the promise that Lunch Break will always treat people with dignity and respect,” she said. “And when we open the doors to the new facility, it will reflect warmth, fellowship and community. Everyone will always be welcome at our table.”

“What you do here is more than just providing meals,” Murphy told the gathering. “It’s more than providing wrap-around services. What you do is you provide hope, and you give people the respect that they truly deserve. That is something priceless.”

The new space will provide more efficient food storage, cooking and dining operations, Love told the borough zoning board last year. It also will incorporate the Life Skills Center, which occupies rented space in Shrewsbury, she said.

Construction is scheduled to begin over the coming summer. While many operations will be temporarily relocated, client services are expected to continue uninterrupted, said spokeswoman Ellen McCarthy.

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