Gwendolyn Love, executive director of Lunch Break, will receive the Dr. King Human Dignity Award at the YMCA’s virtual Dr. King commemoration January 15. (Photo by Danny Sanchez.)

Press release from the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County

2020 was filled with uncertainty and canceled events near and far, but the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is busy preparing for its annual community celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like so many other important events taking place during the coronavirus pandemic, the commemoration will be a live virtual event hosted on Zoom, Friday, January 15.
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suzanne-keller-gwendolyn-loveThe SOURCE director Suzanne Keller and Lunch Break exec director Gwendolyn Love are pictured at the launch of the expanded Red Bank Regional Community Tutoring Program at Lunch Break.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

This school year, the Red Bank based nonprofit Lunch Break has graciously offered its facility to the Red Bank Regional High School District, for the expansion of its popular Community Peer Tutoring Program. Dedicated to a mission of “Removing all obstacles that impede a students’ academic success,” the program is operated by The SOURCE, RBR’s School Based Youth Services Program.

Fifty freshmen will meet at the newly renovated Lunch Break dining room every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m., for homework help with their teachers. RBR upper classmen from the school’s National Honor Societies, Key Club and International Baccalaureate program also provide tutoring support for the students under the teachers’ supervision.

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Brian KirkThe Jersey Shore’s premier cover band Brian Kirk & the Jirks will return to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre on Saturday, December 20, for a concert benefitting Lunch Break of Red Bank. The 8 pm show marks the third annual edition of a “Santa For…” event that began at the Basie in 2012, with a successful Santa for Sea Bright fundraiser presented after Superstorm Sandy.

In 2013, Brian Kirk told redbankgreen that he and the Jirks would like to make the “Santa for somebody or something” concert a December tradition in Red Bank. They did, and they’re back this year. All net proceeds from the performance will benefit Lunch Break, and generous anonymous donors are underwriting the concert.

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LunchBreakNow that Lunch Break is one step closer to reaching their $5 million goal toward their “Step Up to the Plate” capital campaign for Lunch Break,” the Red Bank-based nonprofit is announcing a $1 Million Challenge.

This past August, an anonymous local philanthropist gave Lunch Break $1 million for their capital campaign and said, “I hope this donation inspires others to give and also step up to the plate.”

Inspire it did — now within $1 million of reaching their goal, Lunch Break announced that a group of local donors has pledged $500,000 as a “challenge” grant. In other words, every dollar donated from today until 11:59 pm on December 31, 2014 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the donor group, up to a half million dollars.

“This challenge puts us one step closer, literally, to reaching our goal,” said Mark Brahney, president of the Lunch Break Board of Trustees.  “The funds raised to date have ensured the completion of Phase 1 and Phase 2.  The remaining funds are for Phase 3— the purchase of additional property and a capital reserve/endowment fund to sustain Lunch Break for years to come.”

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NickDawes BrianKirkNick Dawes of the PBS series ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is the guest auctioneer — and Brian Kirk and the Jirks provide the soundtrack — as Red Bank’s Lunch Break celebrates 31 years of service during the annual Gala at Navesink Country Club.

Press release from Lunch Break Inc.

On Monday, October 20, Lunch Break will host its fifth annual Gala at the Navesink Country Club in Middletown. Presented under the theme of “Hope Happens Here,” the evening will celebrate 31 years of dedicated service to the community by the Red Bank-based nonprofit, in addition to honoring several individuals for their steadfast commitment to the Lunch Break mission.

Presentations will be made of the “Norma Todd Service Award” to Paul and Margo Hooker, the “Heart to Hand Award” to Inice Hennessy and Pamela Elam, the “Beacon of Service Award” to Carol Ingaro and Leigh Stoecker of Fringe Marketing, and the “Future Charitable Leaders Award” to Katie and Taylor Gill.

The evening will also include a spirited dinner reception, live and silent auctions, and a 50/50 raffle, with live entertainment provided by Brian Kirk and the Jirks. Special guest will be one of this country’s most experienced charity auctioneers — Nick Dawes, Vice President of Special Collections for Heritage Auctions in New York, and a familiar figure to millions through his expert appraisals on the PBS series Antiques Roadshow since the first season in 1996.

All net proceeds from the Hope Happens Here Gala will directly support Lunch Break’s critical programs.

One doesn’t have to look far to see the impact of the lingering economic downturn on the hungry and working poor among us.  In fact, the New Jersey Poverty Research Institute concludes in a 2013 report that 25 percent of New Jersey residents are living in poverty.  No wonder the demand for Lunch Break’s services has grown dramatically — and, to respond to that increasing demand and better serve the community, in March Lunch Break launched “Step Up To The Plate,” its $5 million capital campaign to enlarge the size and increase the functionality of its facility.

When the two-story addition is completed, the seating capacity in the dining room will be nearly doubled and there will be a new, larger, and more functional kitchen to serve the growing number of clients.  The expansion will also provide space for a clothing “boutique,” a “choice food pantry,” reception and waiting areas, private social service and intake offices, a donation drop-off area, administrative offices, a conference and meeting room, data stations, a maintenance office, and restrooms.

Gwendolyn Love, Executive Director of Lunch Break, said at the March groundbreaking for the updated facilty that, “Thirty-one years ago Lunch Break began serving hot lunches to Red Bank residents. Today our reach has expanded and we serve our most vulnerable neighbors who come from every town in Monmouth County, and from many in Ocean County.

“Last year, we served over 61,000 hot meals. Our food pantry provides, on average, groceries to over 750 families every month.   Our volunteers deliver meals to the homebound six days a week.  In addition, we have a clothing distribution center that includes our Suited for Success Program that provides business attire for job interviewees.  We also have an Adopt-a-Family holiday gift program, a Children’s Cooking Class, and a Gardener’s Market every Tuesday morning, year round, that distributes donated fresh produce.  We offer internet services, employment information, and social, as well as health and wellness resources.”

All this, and more, is provided under the direction of the Board of Trustees along with Mrs. Love, her small staff, and an army of more than 2,000 devoted volunteers, and is supported through the generosity of residents and many organizations and businesses throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.   Hope happens here.  So, please gather your friends and family and join Lunch Break at their Gala to celebrate 31 years of dedicated service.  Our communities need Lunch Break and Lunch Break needs your support.

Tickets for the Hope Happens Here Gala are $160 and may be purchased online here. For additional information,  please call Petra Vanderven at 732-747-8577, (732)747-8577, extension 3106, or e-mail her at


Jon_Schwartz_hands_keys_to_Gwen_LoveOn behalf of the Monmouth County Automobile Dealers Association, Jon Schwartz of Schwartz Mazda hands over the keys to a brand new refrigerated truck, to Lunch Break executive director Gwendolyn Love.

Press release from Lunch Break of Red Bank

Thousands of neighbors in the local area have come to count on Lunch Break to deliver meals to community members in need, as well as to collect donations for their busy food bank facility. Just before Labor Day, a group of Monmouth County business leaders made a special delivery of their own to the Red Bank-based nonprofit — a donation of a brand new refrigerated truck.

Lunch Break executive director Gwendolyn Love took delivery of the truck, donated by the Monmouth County Automobile Dealers Association. Charter member Jon Schwartz personally handed over the keys to the Hino truck to the director, who said, “We are speechless.”

“This new truck will enable us to ensure we can serve fresh, quality, nutritious food to our neighbors in need,” said Love. “It will also ensure there is minimal disruption in serving meals during our expansion and transition into our new building. It’s wonderful.”

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Press release from Lunch Break of Red Bank

For years, Lunch Break has served as the first line of defense for thousands of residents of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and beyond, in the ever-expanding battle against hunger and the ravages of poverty in the midst of affluence. According to the nonprofit organization’s executive director Gwen Love, food pantry distributions have increased by a staggering amount, with more than 750 area families depending on Lunch Break each and every month for groceries — amounting to nearly 400,000 pounds of food.

“Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times,” said Love. “Summer is especially difficult, with schools closed and many people on vacation…but hunger doesn’t close for the summer or go on vacation.”

Between the hours of 11 am and 2 pm on Saturday, May 17, Lunch Break will host the third annual “Foodstock” community food drive at the Red Bank Middle School, 101 Harding Road. The goal this year is to collect an ambitious 50,000 pounds of non-perishable food — and all members of the greater Red Bank community are invited to spend the afternoon enjoying live music, good food,  good friends, and a chance to learn more about Lunch Break and its committed Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers.

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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.

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Famed Red Bank area rock photographer Mark Weiss has announced the donation of a series of classic rock and roll portraits from the 1970s and 1980s, to benefit the borough-based nonprofit Lunch Break and its 2013 Gala and Fundraiser event.weissguy-about-me2

The limited edition prints, assembled under the campaign title “Feels Like the First Time,” collect a set of images dating back to the first time that Weiss had photographed each of the subjects — a gallery of luminaries that includes Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper, Cheech & Chong, David Johansen (New York Dolls), Debbie Harry (Blondie), Paul Stanley (Kiss), Sammy Hagar, members of Bon Jovi, Boston, and many more. Prints are signed by the artists as well as by Weiss, and are being auctioned here through October 8, via the online service CharityBuzz.

The fourth annual gala for the charitable organization under the direction of Gwendolyn Love takes place from 6 to 10 pm on Monday, October 21 at Navesink Country Club in Middletown. Tickets ($150 each; the majority tax deductible) include passed hors d’oeuvres, carving stations, music by the Pat Karwan Trio, a silent auction as well as a live auction conducted by Steve Trevelise of New Jersey 101.5. Also offered are a cash bar and and a 50/50 raffle ($30 a chance).

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empty pantry

Bare shelves indicate a critical shortage of food items at Lunch Break’s Red Bank facility. The charitable nonprofit that marks 30 years of service in 2013 is putting out the call for more food donations in advance of its October fundraising gala.  (Click to enlarge)

Press release from Lunch Break

Founded in 1983 as the first Monmouth County soup kitchen and pantry by a group of concerned citizens, Lunch Break is currently the largest and most accessible such facility.  Today, Executive Director Gwendolyn Love, her staff, and more than 2,000 volunteers continue that original commitment and so much more — but even as the nonprofit prepares to celebrate 30 years of service to the community, the director points out that “our resources are critically low.”

“With summer vacation over and the push to get kids back to school and the signs of fall popping up everywhere, at Lunch Break the sign of fall is bare shelves in the pantry,” says Love.  “The toughest times of year for us are September and October, as well as February and March, where we face critical shortages. We try to plan for these months, but with the daily increase in demand for our services, when the food is gone, it’s gone.  It’s heart wrenching to plan and not be able to meet the need.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times,” said Love.  In a study released last week by the Legal Services of the New Jersey Poverty Research Institute it was concluded that over two million people in New Jersey struggle to meet their basic needs.  This represents a significant increase of over 300,000 since the beginning of the economic recession.