By Gena Ansell-Lande
Excitement was in the air as the folks at Lunch Break celebrated the Fall Gala Honorees at their pre-gala reception. The annual predecessor to its more illustrious cousin, the Fall Gala is now in its seventh year and was a huge success. Executive Director Gwen Love stated, “The Pre-Gala Reception is the first opportunity given to introduce the recipients of Lunch Breaks’ five honorary awards, voted by staff and volunteers and presented annually during the Fall Gala.”
Each of the recipients have exemplified the meaning of public service and are dedicated, selfless individuals and/or businesses that have demonstrated extraordinary efforts in raising awareness and donations for hunger insecurity within our community. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Norma Todd Service Award, honoring a person or organization that has generously donated their resources, time, and talents to promote the mission of Lunch Break.
Longtime supporters of Lunch Break and local philanthropists Robert and Joan Rechnitz are this year’s recipients of that award. Well-known throughout the area for their generosity, Mrs. Rechnitz noted, “There are so many charities and so many people in such great need. We are just glad that we can help our neighbors who struggle.”
Mrs. Janie Schildge and the Red Bank Crop Walk Committee received the Beacon of Service Award. This is an award that honors exceptional service and support in furthering Lunch Break’s mission through selfless dedication. Selected for her many decades of dedicated service, Mrs. Schildge accepted the nomination on behalf of all those who have worked by her side to generate successful fundraisers, including schools, ministries, and residents.
There was an unprecedented tie for the Heart to Hand Award. This award was created to honor a person, organization, or group who invests their time in moving the Lunch Break organization forward. The honorees motivate others to become involved and demonstrate exemplary initiative and leadership. One of the honorees is Mr. George Chrysanthopoulos, owner of the Beach Tavern and Marina in Monmouth Beach. He has lent his expertise as a volunteer in the Client Choice Food Pantry, creating a dignified atmosphere for clients, stocking shelves, and serving clients. He added, “Lunch Break has made me a better man. Since volunteering here, I can’t stop thinking about ways to help. It’s been a very rewarding experience.” The other Heart to Hand Award Honoree is The Two River Times, for its ongoing courage and commitment to reporting the community’s escalating food insecurity crisis. They have also generously provided ad space for fundraising efforts of charitable causes.
Tommy Antoniello, a graduate of Holmdel High School, will receive the Future Charitable Leaders Award. This award was created to recognize an individual youth or youth group that has demonstrated an exceptional display of concern for Lunch Break through service and leadership to others. A volunteer since his pre-teens, he brings his contagious enthusiasm as he assists clients every Saturday
Finally, there is a new award this year called the Corporate Platinum Partner Award. This will be presented annually to a corporate entity that includes within their core business values support of local charities, as well as encouraging the efforts of their staff to participate in charitable activities. The first recipient is Morgan Stanley of Red Bank, who has for many years supported Lunch Break financially, as well as provided professional expertise to ensure the longevity of their future.
Lunch Break is looking forward to honoring these remarkable individuals for their outstanding support over the years. Ms. Love stated, “Our gala is a wonderful event celebrating Lunch Break’s 33-year history of alleviating hunger and providing life’s basic necessities to residents of Monmouth County and beyond.”
Lunch Break’s Seventh Annual Gala, “Sustaining Hope,” will be held on Friday, October 21at Gibbs Hall in Eatontown from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by the Docs of Rock. Tickets for the event can be purchased online at www.lunchbreak.org or by contacting Jill Gwydir at (732) 747-8577, ext. 3107.