RED BANK – “It’s like coming home again after being away for such a long time,” said Lunch Break Executive Director Gwendolyn Love, referring to the recent reopening of the dining room facilities to guests.
Having been closed for 15 months since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Lunch Break dining room is once again fully operational and open for business as usual and guests will have a chance to reunite with their friends for food and fellowship six days a week, according to a press release.
During the pandemic, the dining room was closed to the public, with a small staff including Culinary Director Tyrone Burr, Assistant Chef David Neal and a handful of front-line volunteers preparing grab-and-go meals for distribution.
“I get emotional just thinking about seeing all the wonderful faces in our beautiful dining room after such a long hiatus,” Love said. “I knew we would see this day, after months of social distancing and precautions and safeguards for clients, volunteers and staff, when we would all be together again.”
Breakfast and lunch is offered both dine-in and grab-and-go at Lunch Break, the food security and social services resource in Red Bank, free of charge.
For those wishing to dine indoors, a mask must be worn while moving about the dining room.
Breakfast is served grab-and-go only from 8-10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday; lunch is offered in the dining room from 11-11:45 a.m. Monday through Friday, and grab-and-go from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Friday Community Dinner is served from 6-6:45 p.m. in the dining room and from 6-8 p.m. for grab-and-go.
For many clients, dining indoors with family members and with friends after a year of uncertainty is a godsend, according to the press release.
“No one ever told me life was going to be easy or growing old was either, but fortunately for me and many others there are kind and generous people who are drawn to those who are in need,” said a client. “Lunch Break is an oasis, when all seems very dim and out of reach. I am so very glad we met.”
Many volunteers who, for health and/or employment reasons, were unable to help with meal preparations and service during the pandemic, are excited to return to see friends and extended family once again.
“I’m sure the clients are looking forward to the opportunity to enjoy their meals with some friends and friendly conversation,” said volunteer Lew Kurland.
For those volunteers who bravely and consistently served for so many months, Love and board President Philip Antoon have nothing but gratitude.
“These volunteers risked their lives to serve, and did it so willingly, because they knew there was a great need for life’s basic necessities,” Antoon said.
“And we never missed a meal,” Love said, referring to Lunch Break’s service record during the peak of the pandemic. “And we hope and pray we never will.”
Lunch Break accepts donations online at www.lunchbreak.org or at its headquarters, 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd., Red Bank. Follow Lunch Break on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.