By John Burton
RED BANK – The newest edition of the Prown’s home improvement business’ annual calendar has a special resonance for David Prown.
The 2014 calendar features images highlighting Red Bank youth in vintage black-and-white photos – from the 1940s to the ‘60s – showing youngsters at the time in locations older area residents will likely recall.
The choice of photo subject seems like a natural fit, given Prown’s long involvement working with area disadvantaged youth. But the idea didn’t come to Prown initially, he acknowledged. The photos were selected from the substantial archives of Dorn’s Classic Images, and Dorn’s George Severini suggested the theme, “tying it in with my youth work,” Prown said.
The proceeds from the calendars, selling for $12 each, will go to help the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County and Future Bucs Red Bank, an organization Prown founded with fellow Red Banker Enrico Ciabattoni, to help underserved kids find their way through sports and educational opportunities.
For more than a decade, Prown has been a strong presence at local sporting events, cheering on local athletes. More significantly – and largely on his own or with the help of some like-minded others – he has worked to help improve the lives of Red Bank children and their families.
Working outside of the constraints of organizational bureaucracy, Prown and Ciabattoni are active in doing “the little stuff” for kids, the details that can mean a lot, Prown said. If there is a child who wants to try out for baseball but is left-handed and his family can’t afford a mitt, “my thing is just go out and get it,” Prown said.
“We like to be totally independent and we like to do what we can do, when we can do it,” he said.
Prown has established what he’s calls Red Bank Replay, through which he collects donated sports equipment – everything from baseball bats, soccer balls and tennis racquets to sneakers and cleats in every imaginable size. He stores the equipment in the basement of his home improvement business at 135 Monmouth St., and distributes the items to needy kids and sports programs in the borough.
Future Bucs Red Bank, which takes its name from the Red Bank Regional High School sports teams nickname, a shortened form of Buccaneers, assists borough youths by getting them involved in sports and elsewhere and providing the necessary equipment and guidance for them to help find their way.
Along with sports, Prown has been involved in a mentoring program, called the SOURCE, that is operated by the high school’s Youth Based Services Program and St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, 121 Bridge Ave. The program aims to help Latino students in danger of dropping out or those who have dropped out by getting them into Brookdale Community College. Using some privately donated scholarship money, Prown and others show Hispanic youth the importance of education toward improving the quality of their lives.
Prown recruits individuals to serve as mentors who will work on a one-on-one basis and in groups with the kids.
Along the way, Prown has found that in addition to some cultural issues facing those students, one of the biggest hurdles in going to the college is the lack of transportation to and from the Lincroft campus.
“That was the missing link,” Prown said, noting that he and others take some students to class and back home.
“We’re not just going to hand out a pamphlet and say call and make an appointment,” he said of the efforts he and Ciabattoni put forth. “We’ll make the appointment; we’ll go with you. We’ll do everything we can to get it done.”
For about a decade, Prown has been operating an informal recreation program at St. Anthony’s gym and provides much of the needed equipment. Through word of mouth in the west side community, he gets about 60 kids on Sunday afternoons to play various sports and tries to get them involved in organized sports.
The program grew out of his being invited to attend a Spanish-language Mass at St. Anthony’s about 11 years ago. “There were tons of families, looking at me, warm smiles.”
He approached the church’s pastor to ask about using the gym for a sports program. “That was the tipping point; St. Anthony’s giving me a place to connect with Red Bank kids,” he said.
This is the fifth year for his calendar. Earlier versions had such themes as Broad Street, the west side, storms and Red Bank eateries.
The first year he gave them away to customers and to the community in general as a holiday offering. Someone then gave Prown the idea of using the calendars as a way to help organizations.
He prints about 300 copies and they tend to sell out. “People do seem to enjoy them,” he said.
He likes the idea of selling them to help others.
“This allows us once a year to make a nice gift” to a worthwhile community group, he said.
The 2014 calendars can be purchased at: Prown’s Home Improvement at 135 Monmouth St., Red Bank; Bagel Station, 168 Monmouth St., Red Bank; and Community Hardware, 44 Church St., Little Silver.