MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ: Lunch Break's Fall Gala was held on Friday, October 11, at the Sheraton in Eatontown. Nearly 350 guests gathered to celebrate the impact of Lunch Break with live cocktail hour entertainment, bountiful delicious foods and endless auction items. 

There are many wonderful charitable organizations in Monmouth County. All with a special mission. Lunch Break is one that has a multi-faceted mission of nourishing the whole person, body, mind and soul. Lunch Break is one organization making a positive impact on thousands regularly. Yes, thousands. With food nourishment alone, Lunch Break served 83,241 hot meals a day to the hungry in our communities in 2018 and in addition 51,150 bags of groceries were distributed. Everyone is served with compassion and dignity, this is Lunch Break's way. All is done with love and there is never a charge for service. 

Lunch Break's Clara's Closet which provides gently used and new clothing and accessories has served over 35,000 families in 2018. Those are just two programs of the many that every minute of every day are bringing hope to thousands. From their life skills and mentoring programs to their holiday senior gift programs and children's summer school feeding program, Lunch Break is nourishing, mind, body and soul. 

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As with any great accomplishment it truly does take a whole village-a community impact. At the Gala, standout supporters were honored.  

The 2019 Lunch Break Gala honorees: 

-Ralph and Margaret Mucerino for The Norma Todd Service Award. This award is to honor a person, organization or group who generously donated their resources, time and talents to promote the mission of Lunch Break by alleviating hunger, and leading those served to self-sufficiency and healthier lifestyles. 

-The Heart to Hand Award to The Count Basie Center for the Arts’ arts education and outreach programs. Accepting the award: Adam Philipson, President and CEO and Yvonne Lamb Scudiery, VP of Education.

-The Corporate Platinum Partner Award to OceanFirst Bank, and the man at the helm; Christopher D. Maher, Chairman & CEO.

The honorees were recognized for their outstanding service and commitment to Lunch Break’s mission of freely providing life’s basic necessities of food, clothing, life skills and fellowship for greater Monmouth County and beyond, while guiding families and individuals in need to self-sufficiency and healthier, more productive lifestyles.

“We are humbled by the dedicated support and service these distinguished volunteers provide Lunch Break, ensuring that we can continue to honor our mission and expand our services,” said Executive Director Gwendolyn Love. “I am proud and grateful to acknowledge each of these recipients for their contributions to Lunch Break as we enhance our ability to serve our community.”  

During dinner at the Gala, guests were treated to special entertainment by teens from the Count Basie Center for the Arts' arts education program. You can listen to a beautiful sample in the video below.

VIDEO: Teens from one of Count Basie's educational arts programs perform at Lunch Break Annual Gala, 2019-Count Basie's A Cappella Group:  

The evening's event had two very passionate philanthropists emceeing the program: Robin Klein is a longtime supporter of Lunch Break and and various charitable organizations, with an unyielding dedication to supporting animal welfare groups locally and internationally. Jeremy Grunin, also a longtime supporter of Lunch Break, is actively engaged throughout the community as President of the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation. He is a proactive grantmaker, focused on economic growth at the Central Jersey Shore.

More details on the 2019 Lunch Break Gala Honorees 

The Norma Todd Service Award: For Ralph and Margaret “Peggy” Mucerino, giving back to the community is a family affair. About 16 years ago, they received a mailing about Lunch Break and were encouraged to seek more information about the organization, which eventually led to a longtime commitment. It was their first monetary donation that turned into almost two decades of involvement, including volunteering at the pantry and kitchen, collecting toys, food, clothing, and school supplies, and providing mentorship to clients. Every holiday season for many years, the family has adopted up to four Lunch Break families, providing gifts and food to help make their holidays a happy one.  For Mr. and Mrs. Mucerino, this also has been a great way to teach their two daughters, Meghan and Caitlin, to appreciate all they have, while encouraging them to give back to less fortunate community members. The Mucerinos’ desire to help others has deep roots that are very close to their hearts. Both grew up without means, and each know what it’s like to not have an abundance of food or many material possessions. Growing up, they recall neighbors and the church community helping their families, which is what drew them to Lunch Break. In addition, having lived and worked around the world, the Mucerinos can sympathize with many of Lunch Break’s clients who have difficulty speaking English and  are trying to make a life for themselves in the community. In addition to their work with Lunch Break, the Mucerino’s support Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, St. Francis Food Pantry in New York City, and the Monmouth County SPCA. Mr. Mucerino is an active member of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, where he helps to support school-age and undergraduate children through scholarship funds. Mr. and Mrs. Mucerino also established a Mucerino Family endowment at Sacred Heart University for the benefit of students in need of financial support.

Count Basie Center for the Arts: honored for their arts education and outreach programs

Heart to Hand Award: The Count Basie Center for the Arts has been a premier entertainment venue for years, known for drawing acts such as Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, and national tours of the best Broadway shows. What most people don’t realize is that the Basie, a not-for-profit organization, is about so much more than simply entertaining patrons. They are committed to being partners in building a vibrant and culturally aware community in Monmouth County and surrounding areas.  In fact, The Basie is dedicated to bringing arts and music education, enrichment, and most importantly, fun, to the community, offering programs for developing artists, students, schools, professionals, and the community at large. One such program is mind-ALIGNED, a collective impact initiative that is working to bring creative teaching back into schools. According to Adam Philipson, Basie Center President and Chief Executive Officer, “We’re teaching teachers how to bring creativity back into the classroom, and use that in their lessons, to manage classes, and help kids deal with stress.”  The Basie also works to engage the community through arts and entertainment that celebrates its diversity. For example, they have the thriving Calpulli Mexican dance program, where children and parents can participate together and reconnect with their heritage. The Basie Center is in the midst of a major expansion, which will enable the organization to enhance its partnerships with schools, organizations, and individuals throughout the community. Under Mr. Philipson and Vice President of Education Yvonne Lamb Scudiery’s leadership, the Count Basie Center for the Arts has become a change agent in the community, and they expect to continue building that legacy.  

OceanFirst Bank, Christopher D. Maher, Chairman & CEO: Corporate Platinum Partner Award-OceanFirst Bank’s strong commitment to being a good neighbor and great corporate citizen is as old as the institution itself.  Founded in 1902, OceanFirst took its commitment to helping those throughout central and southern New Jersey to the next level in 1996, becoming the first bank in the U.S. to establish a non-profit foundation in conjunction with an initial public offering.Over the years, OceanFirst has given more than $39 million to hundreds of local organizations, schools, and individuals, focusing on the areas of housing, youth development and education, improving the quality of life, health and wellness, and the arts. As a true neighbor, OceanFirst is committed to reacting quickly when the need arises, and to staying involved with organizations that have the most impact on a community.  Christopher D. Maher, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of OceanFirst, joined the bank in 2013 and was named President and CEO in 2017. During his tenure, he has led the Bank’s significant expansion, which has in turn almost doubled foundation assets, increasing the level of philanthropic giving. He encourages employees throughout his organization to do what they can to make a difference in the community.  OceanFirst has been supporting Lunch Break for many years through volunteer and philanthropic efforts. According to Mr. Maher, their commitment to Lunch Break stems from the work the organization does “to serve people who have great difficulty finding traditional support. It’s a particularly vulnerable group, where support from OceanFirst can make a tremendous difference and impact a lot of people.”

Lunch Break, accepts donations online at www.lunchbreak.org or at its headquarters, 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd. in Red Bank. Follow Lunch Break on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Give local, stays local. #whywebreak #givelocal #thisishowwebreak