By Eileen Moon
RED BANK – With Christmas just days away, Gwendolyn Love is happy to report that thanks to the generosity of the community, Santa Claus will definitely be coming to the homes of hundreds of needy families in the Red Bank area.
“People have truly been generous,” said Love, who is executive director of the Lunch Break Soup Kitchen and food pantry, which provides a constellation of services to disadvantaged families in the two river area and beyond.
“It’s just been amazing. We’re doing fine with the gifts right now. We’ve really been blessed by the community. We’re very thankful. Two years ago, it wasn’t like that.”
That year, requests for help kept rising even as donations dropped, Love said. “They just kept coming. You’re signing up people and you don’t know if you’re going to have the gifts or not.”
What Lunch Break does need, however, are monetary donations, Love said. “We are down with the money.” Because December is when the majority of donations come in, she is hoping for some last minute cash, noting that while people are more inclined to give during the holidays, the need for help is year-round – especially in the present economy.
“I did read somewhere that 33 percent of all giving is going to take place Dec. 29, 30 and 31st. I’m hoping that’s true.”
This year, Lunch Break has provided Christmas gifts and toys for 370 area families, an increase from last year, when they were able to help approximately 325 families.
Love has seen more people making a personal donation than in past years. “They’re being more pro-active, just doing things on their own.”
Social media has been a big help in spreading the word about what is needed, too.
On average, Lunch Break is providing food pantry items and hot meals to some 400 to 500 families.
And though December is solid, Love said she has some concerns once when January arrives. “That’s when everything drops off. Don’t forget us in January.”
On Christmas Day, Lunch Break will be open, offering a Christmas breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. that is open to anyone. “Well have a nice, brief program, and we hope to give away toys.”
All are welcome, notes Love.
“This is a place a lot of people will come to just because they don’t want to be alone.”