With no electricity and no way to reach out to volunteers or organization staff, Gwen Love opened Lunch Break early Wednesday morning knowing that, at least, someone needed to be there to help out.
Minutes after Lunch Break's doors opened, dozens of volunteers arrived ready to work.
With Hurricane Sandy's mayhem having caused significant damage and major power outages throughout Monmouth County, Love said the need for Lunch Break demanded its opening. The fact that so many volunteers showed up with the same idea in mind is a testament to the work they do on a regular basis and the help Lunch Break provides the community in need.
"I couldn't contact the staff; I couldn't reach the volunteers, but I knew they would show," Love, Lunch Break's executive director said Wednesday. "It wasn't a hard decision to open. This is what we're here to do."
With no power but enough light coming into the kitchen thanks to skylights above, Lunch Break was able to prepare food for both breakfast and lunch to a crush of residents who showed up hoping that the soup kitchen and food pantry they rely on for a hot meal would be open. Beef chili and rice, rolls, pie and hot coffee were a welcomed sight to the borough's food insecure now having to deal without heat and electricity in their homes.
Currently, Jersey Central Power and Light estimates that more than 90 percent of Monmouth County residents are without power. The same is true for Red Bank, where more than 4,000 households are without power.
Lunch Break staff also worked in coordination with the Red Bank Senior Center, Parks and Recreation Director Memone Crystian said, to help deliver food to the borough's homebound. Together, both Lunch Break and the Senior Center are working with the Salvation Army to make sure those in need have access to food and warm clothing.
"This what Lunch Break's all about," Long time volunteer Pat said. "All of the commeraderie, everyone helping out. A few volunteers showed up in the morning and then we were flooded (with more volunteers)."
The decision to open, even without power and limited resources, was a smart one. Love said Lunch Break welcomed a large crowd in the morning, a crowd that grew significantly as lunch time approached.
"It's just a continuation of what we do everyday," Love said. "People have to eat; they have to have a hot meal. We wanted to continue our services despite the challenges."
Currently, Lunch Break is operating under its normal hours, Love said. The food pantry is open and residents who need a meal or prepared food are encouraged to stop bye. There's just one problem, the electricity. While there's enough sunlight to make working in the kitchen and eating in the dining room easy enough, Lunch Break's refrigerators and freezers won't stay cold for long.
"If someone out there has a generator they want to lend us we won't during them down," she said.
Lunch Break is located at 121 Drs James Parker Blvd in Red Bank and can be reached at 732-747-8577.