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An Extra Helping of Community

Lunch Break's monthly community dinner joins food and awareness.

Each month Lunch Break partners with the Red Bank Resource Network and Community Resource Center — formerly Hispanic Affairs — to provide a hot meal, entertainment and plenty of information on available social resources.

Called, simply, a community dinner, the event draws a varied crowd of local residents eager for information about available social services and organizations there to help. This past Friday, the crowd was focused on one thing: Hurricane Sandy.

Throughout Lunch Break's crowded dining hall families enjoyed a meal as their kids played Bingo. Resource Networker Brian Smith canvassed the room with a stack of papers and pamphlets, stopping at tables to offer assistance where needed. On this day, Smith had valuable information about how to apply for disaster relief from FEMA as well as a list of organizations available to help with donations and supplies.

"It's very hard for many to navigate the system," Smith said of a largely Hispanic crowd.

When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey's coast it resulted in significant damage and widespread outages. In both Red Bank and Shrewsbury, officials were reporting near-complete blackouts following Sandy. While a lucky few residents and businesses got their power back within a couple of days, some neighborhoods in town suffered through outages that lasted nearly two weeks.

Providing those residents with a place to relax, get warm and enjoy a hot meal was a service Lunch Break was more than willing to provide.

"I think people have come together in this time of need. A lot of people are isolated and I think it's unbelievably important," Lunch Break Executive Director Gwen Love said. "I think people have been disconnected. People are still sitting in the dark and it's important to get out of the house."

In the wake of Sandy, Lunch Break, which first opened without power just a couple of days after the storm, has been serving breakfast and lunch each day. The organization has also been distributing groceries. And while it's something Lunch Break does anyway, Love said the demand from the community has been tremendous following Sandy.

"How long it will last, I don't know," she said.

As long as there's help available, these organizations will continue to offer it.

Taking a moment from calling numbers for bingo, Beatrice Desterheld, executive director of the Community Resource Center said her organization, which is based in Asbury Park and has an office in Red Bank, has been accepting tons of donations of winter coats, clothing, and food.

While the need is still great, the generosity shown from the community at large has been great.

"I have never seen anything like this," she said. "We're doing this for a reason. We're serving the community and helping people anyway we can."

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