RED BANK – Through the generosity of its sponsors, donors and more than 7,000 viewers of Facebook Live and YouTube during Lunch Break’s “Rising Together” virtual fundraiser hosted by Jon Stewart on Aug. 27, the organization that is based in Red Bank met its $250,000 match challenge donated by community partners Joan Rechnitz and Abe and Linda Littenberg.
“Lunch Break provides an invaluable service to our community. It’s essential in normal times and it’s value has only grown in these difficult times,” Stewart said of the organization’s efforts to feed community members struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am always impressed by their compassion and thorough execution of not just food insecurity issues, but job training and overall life management support,” he said in a press release issued by Lunch Break.
The evening included compelling testimonials from clients such as young mother Chelsea Zamot and Nick Johnson and Aniyyah Lebron-Winkey and their family, each of whom was facing homelessness, financial burdens and other challenging circumstances, and were offered hope for a better tomorrow after receiving guidance and support from dedicated staff and volunteers, according to the press release.
Chelsea and Nick and Aniyyah revealed their life-changing stories in candid interviews, according to the press release.
Chelsea was struggling under the weight of debt and unable to graduate college until the Life Skills team helped to reduce her debt so she could return to her studies.
Nick and Aniyyah, also guided by the Life Skills team, went from desperate to hopeful: They have a new apartment, a donated car, steady employment, and Nick is enrolled in college courses, according to the press release.
The fundraiser featured musical performances by Brian Kirk of Brian Kirk & the Jirks, the Count Basie Center for the Arts a capella Singers, and local youth singer-songwriter Maddie Freeman of Little Silver, and included coverage of Lunch Break’s Operation Gear-Up: We Will Not Miss A Meal pandemic response to feeding community members in need, with interviews of front-line volunteers and staff.
The proceeds will be used to sustain the programs and services critical to so many individuals and families in the community who have been impacted by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, according to the press release.
“We can’t thank our wonderful supporters, organizations and businesses, the board, our volunteers and staff, and of course, Jon and Tracey Stewart, for helping Lunch Break keep its promise of never missing a meal. The support of the community is the reason Lunch Break continues to operate during these uncertain times,” Executive Director Gwendolyn O. Love said.
“We are so grateful for this historic broadcast event highlighting the incredible community response for our neighbors who are unable to afford food because they are struggling with financial burdens. We can’t thank our volunteers and donors enough for all their support,” board President John Klein said.
The annual Lunch Break Fall Gala, originally scheduled for Oct. 16, will be postponed to October 2021. Jon Stewart will once again host.
Next year’s honorees include such philanthropic community leaders as Carol Stillwell, president and CEO of Stillwell-Hansen Inc., Norma Todd Service Award; Lunch Break Board President John Klein and his wife, Robin, Heart to Hand Award; and Guttenplan’s Frozen Dough, Middletown, A Child’s Place School, Lincroft, and Abe and Linda Littenberg, Corporate Platinum Partner Award, according to the press release.