Jon Bon Jovi helps open Jersey Shore center for hungry, struggling residents
TOMS RIVER — Nearly four years after superstorm Sandy devastated Jersey Shore communities like this one, full recovery still remains out of reach for many local residents.
But now the Jersey-born rocker who wrote "Livin' on a Prayer" is using his wealth and influence to help these fellow New Jersey residents who are still down on their luck.
The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation joined with the Peoples Pantry and The Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties to open the BEAT Center. Standing for "Bring Everyone All Together," the center in this Ocean County township will feed the hungry, provide job training and offer pro-bono tax preparation for needy individuals and families.
“Superstorm Sandy brought a lot of focus here in Ocean County to people already in need,” Bon Jovi said Tuesday during the grand opening for the center, which includes his second JBJ Soul Kitchen, where people who come in for dinner pay by making a small donation. The first JBJ Soul Kitchen opened 2011 in Red Bank.
“These are the hard working, blue collar, middle class people who go to work everyday," he said. “Dorothea and I just really believe that we could help to affect one person at a time by doing something that we love, which is feeding people.”
One of the center's biggest supporters is hedge fund manager David Tepper, one of the state's wealthiest residents.
“It’s a fantastic facility that will get people here to the pantry, people in need,” he said.
The center also provides at-risk youth with after-school programs, and will help residents find the social services that can assist them.
“The fact that now families in need can sit down and have a dignified meal is incredible,” said Pat Donaghue, executive director of The Peoples Pantry. “This entity, this building, is going to bring more services than we could have ever imagined.”
The unfortunate reality of living in hard economic times is seeing people you know and love in your own community struggling to make ends meet.
“This [center] is needed and there’s no reason why mothers shouldn’t be able to sleep because they don’t know if they’ll be able to feed their children,” Donaghue said. “We see the impact we have. We’re on track to distribute 1.8 Million pounds of food this year, so we know what we do.”
Among those making food donations is Secaucus-based Goya Foods, which donates about 60,000 pounds of food a year, company Executive Vice President Peter Unanue said.
The center joins other charitable endeavors undertaken by Bon Jovi, including the construction of 440 units of affordable housing for homeless or low-income families and donations to numerous Sandy relief efforts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.