By John Burton
RED BANK – Lunch Break is looking to expand.
The soup kitchen and food panty, which has been providing food, clothing and the wherewithal for those in need in Red Bank and the surrounding area for nearly 30 years, is seeking borough approval to expand its facility. The organization is looking to build an addition on adjacent properties because of what its executive director said is an increasing need for its services.
“We’ve definitely outgrown the space,” said Gwendolyn Love, “even for what we’re doing now.”
Love sat at a table in the 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd. facility during lunchtime on Aug. 30 as volunteers and employees worked and moved briskly, serving lunch to the crowd.
As she discussed the need for more space to conduct its various programs, a woman approached the table. Chandelle Morris, who lives on Bank Street, sat down at the table with her tray and its modest lunch, a small piece of cake and fruit juice. Morris said she doesn’t have breakfast or dinner most days, relying on her lunch here as her primary meal. “It’s something I look forward to when I get up in the morning,” she said.
She thanked Love for what Lunch Break had to offer and turned and said, “They are saving my life.”
Love glanced over with smile and thanked Morris for making her point about the work Lunch Break does and the need for the expansion.
“We believe Lunch Break can be an instrument in the community to allow people to make it to the next level,” Love said.
In June 2011 Justin and Victoria Gmelich, a Rumson couple, donated to Lunch Break two properties on the boulevard, each with a vacant single-family residential home, according to Love.
Lunch Break representatives will appear at the borough Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday, Sept. 20, with its application to combine those lots and build an addition to the current site.
According to the application on file at the borough’s Planning and Zoning Department, Lunch Break would demolish the existing homes at 113-115 Drs. James Parker Blvd. and use that 7,320-square-foot tract to expand the current 2,989-square-foot facility and build a 2,091-square-foot addition.
The addition’s first floor, Love said, will be used, in part, to house Lunch Break’s clothing distribution program. Currently, it operates the program on Saturdays out of the dining area, where individuals and families can come to select free clothing and small household items they need.
If the application is approved, the public will be able to drop off donations and pick up items from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Lunch Break could also use the site for its other clothing program, called Suited for Success, where clients can get clothing appropriate for job interviews.
Along with those programs, Lunch Break would continue to operate its “Internet café” on site, where clients have access to computers and use the Internet connections, often to help locate work.
The remainder of the site would be used for administrative offices, file and supply storage and to provide space for the various social service agencies that regularly appear to assist Lunch Break clients.
“The new space will allow us to function more efficiently,“ Love said.
The addition will “create a one-stop shopping” site for clients, who often don’t have cars or money for mass transit to visit social services offices, Love said.
“Business has been too good,” she acknowledged. The facility has been seeing a growing need for services.
“With the economy the way it is, with people looking for help, with new people looking for that help, Lunch Break will help them move to that next level in their life,” Love said. “It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up.”