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Lunch Break works to do more with larger HQ

Leaders realized it needed to expand

RED BANK – Maggie Suimak lost her home during the pandemic. She was living in Marlboro with her son when her landlord decided he wanted another family to move in.

She looked around and found nothing affordable. After contacting affordable housing agencies, one referred her to Family Promise of Monmouth County, now merged with the Red Bank nonprofit Lunch Break.

“I didn’t know we would need it then. I didn’t know they existed,” Suimak said. “We just needed help with housing.”

The nonprofit housed her in a hotel in Colts Neck so her son, who attends high school in Marlboro, can continue in the same school district.

Lunch Break officials hope to help more people soon, as the Red Bank charity is expanding physically. It’s building into the lot next to its 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd. building.

Family Promise, which focuses on the issues surrounding housing insecurity, merged into Lunch Break, which serves hot meals and provides career services, in late 2021, according to Phil Antoon, Lunch Break’s former board of trustees president and future chief business officer.

“It added tremendous benefit to our community because now what we as one (organization) can provide not only food and clothing and life skills, but housing as well,” Antoon said.

John Klein, a former board of trustees president, said the nonprofit’s leaders realized they needed to expand in the decade after the 2008 recession.

“The problems and barriers create opportunity for people to come together and solve what we humans know we have the capacity to do,” executive director Gwendolyn Love said in a speech celebrating the expansion. “We’re a collective group of people that are working together for the positive impact on behalf of others. … Lunch Break is expanding for one purpose and that is to make that impact on many lives.” The groundbreaking attracted about 150 guests including local council members, state senators and even New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy. The lot next to the main building was bought by Lunch Break after it came before a sheriff’s auction. In 2021, the expansion was approved by the Red Bank Zoning Board. Klein said the capital campaign for the expansion raised $12 million and it will double the size of Lunch Break’s building and bring the nonprofit’s career services under the same building. Currently Lunch Break’s Life Skills Program is housed at 648 Broad St. in Shrewsbury.

Antoon said the services provided were to create a path toward selfsufficiency.

In a speech, Robin Klein, the board of trustees vice president, said the nonprofit was working on implementing healthy food services. She emphasized the nonprofit’s philosophy of equality. She said the nonprof-it’s clients “deserve to eat just as well as everyone who is donating the food. We’re serious about that.” Suimak said, “They have been doing everything. They always say they help with basic needs like housing, food and clothing. (But) they have been doing so much more.”

Olivia Liu is a reporter covering transportation, Red Bank and western Monmouth County. She can be reached at oliu@gannett.com.

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