The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County has announced a return to a live event to commemorate the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
After a virtual format for two years due to COVID-19, the Y welcomes the community to attend the 34th annual memorial breakfast on Jan. 13 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at the Sheraton, 6 Industrial Way East, Eatontown.
“The Y is proud to bring our community together again in person to honor Dr. King, to reflect on his principles and to recognize change leaders in our community who take action to build a stronger, more cohesive community for all,” said Laurie Goganzer, president and chief executive officer of the Y.
To engage more young people and inspire future leaders, the event will feature the annual MLK Essay Contest, open to all high school students in greater Monmouth County, Goganzer said.
Two essays will be selected as grand prize winners and the winning students will present their essays at the breakfast, according to a press release.
Both winners will be awarded a $1,500 academic scholarship, sponsored by Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey Natural Gas and PorterPlus Realty. The winners will also be given a one-year membership to a YMCA of Greater Monmouth County branch of their choice.
The essay theme is about impacts of violence and hate crimes directed at racial, ethnic and religious groups and finding solutions to reduce the growing incidents.
Interested students are invited to submit a 300- to 500-word essay to the Y by 5 p.m. Dec. 2. The essay application and details are available at https://ymcanj.org/mlk.
The featured speaker at the event will be the Rev. Dale Caldwell, pastor of Covenant United Methodist Church. He is a professor and the executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
In his role as president of the Dale Caldwell Foundation, he has established a nonprofit organization to reduce poverty through education, employment and entrepreneurship, according to the press release.
During the program, the following awards will be presented to members of the community for their efforts to uphold the principles and ideals of Dr. King:
• YMCA MLK Human Dignity Award – Pastor Kerwin Webb, who serves as youth and young adult pastor at the Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park, will be presented the MLK Human Dignity Award. Webb serves as president of the Greater Red Bank NAACP and is an education specialist for Interfaith Neighbors, a nonprofit community organization in Asbury Park;
• YMCA Social Responsibility Award – State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) will be the recipient of the Social Responsibility Award. Gopal was elected to the New Jersey Senate in 2017 and re-elected in 2021. He has helped secure critical funding to expand the Y’s mental health work and champions the rights of underserved populations in his district and throughout New Jersey;
• YMCA Togetherhood Champion Award – Yulissa and Jayden Gomez of Eatontown, volunteers of the YMCA Togetherhood initiative, will be recognized for their time and commitment to addressing emerging needs in the community.
The commemorative event will begin with registration at 7 a.m., followed by breakfast at 7:30 and the MLK program will start at 8 a.m. Event tickets are $35 for adults; $10 for youths under 16; and $350 for a table of 10. Tickets may be purchased online at https://ymcanj.org/mlk.