Donated vehicle from Sansone Jr. a boost for Lunch Break Life Skills participant

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RED BANK – Through the generosity of Sansone Jr.’s 66 Automall Hope For a Ride program, Lunch Break, the Red Bank social services and food security resource center, is helping a local woman struggling financially with access to work transportation.

The Hope For a Ride program partners with nonprofit organizations to donate vehicles to families or individuals who, because of life circumstances, are in critical need of a car, according to a press release.

Amelica, who is a participant in the Lunch Break Life Skills employment coaching program, was recently presented with a 2004 Ford Escort at Sansone Jr.’s Route 66 Automall, Neptune.

Amelica was thrilled to receive the donated vehicle. It was a life-saver for her and her son, Cajou, who recently traveled to New Jersey with the promise of a brighter tomorrow, according to the press release.

With her husband and daughter still at the family’s home in New Mexico, Amelica moved to Monmouth County before the COVID-19 pandemic began, hoping for better education opportunities for her son, who has autism, according to the press release.

Mother and son spent half a year in a motel room in Eatontown, while Amelica concentrated on enrolling Cajou in a special needs program in the Tinton Falls school district.

With only six months in savings for housing costs and food, Amelica thought it would be enough for survival until she found employment. But the economic fallout from the pandemic proved otherwise. Her husband’s work hours were reduced. Businesses closed; hiring opportunities were scarce. Amelica needed a job, according to the press release.

She sought assistance from Life Skills mentor Jan Oberdick, who helped Amelica fine-tune her resume and update her employment skills. A year following their meeting, Amelica was hired for a position in overnight security at Seabrook Village in Tinton Falls.

There was a catch, however; the job was a distance from her home. Amelica needed transportation and was unable to afford a car. For months, she walked to work – sometimes more than three hours one way – in heat, cold, rain and snow.

“Amelica is one strong lady,” Oberdick said.

With help from Life Skills Operations Manager Mary Ann LaSardo and Sansone Jr. Automall’s Hope For a Ride program, Amelica now has a green light to a promising future.

While Amelica was nearly in disbelief about her new vehicle, there was none more deserving than the U.S. Navy veteran who emigrated from Haiti as a young woman, according to the press release.

“Sansone Jr.’s 66 Automall has been working hard for many years to assist those in need in our local community with our Hope For a Ride program. Having a vehicle is essential to everyone’s daily life and we understand how life circumstances can prevent deserving and hardworking families from getting the transportation they need,” Paul Sansone Jr. said.

Through Hope For a Ride, more than 50 local families in need have received safe and reliable vehicles, according to the press release.

“We are so grateful to have the opportunity to work with local churches and organizations like Lunch Break, which help us find those who are truly in need in our community,” Sansone said.

The Life Skills program, established in 2017 as a community resource for skills training, business attire and resume and employment coaching, now has expanded and offers participants English as a Second Language, job preparedness financial and technology classes, and one-to-one mentoring.

Life Skills recently launched a mentorship program in collaboration with The Source at Red Bank Regional High School, targeting at-risk juniors and seniors in need of college prep guidance and vocational training.

Lunch Break freely provides food, clothing, life skills and fellowship to those in need in Monmouth County and beyond. The resource center strives to bring individuals full circle, by caring for their emotional and physical well-being, as well as providing guidance and the necessary skills to achieve self-sufficiency, according to the press release.