Lunch Break Mentors Serve More Than Food

December 24, 2017
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Mentor Maurice Love works with teenage boys as part of
Lunch Break’s “Food for Thought” program.

By John Burton |

RED BANK — “Man shall not live by bread alone,” Matthew said in the New Testament, telling us to seek different forms of sustenance. Lunch Break, known primarily as a soup kitchen and food pantry on Red Bank’s West Side, is providing more than food as it offers young men leadership and guidance on the path to responsible adulthood.

“Food for Thought” is a program established about three years ago in cooperation with Lunch Break, 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd., and the Red Bank branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County, 138 Drs. James Parker Blvd., intended to provide positive role models for adolescents.

The Rev. Zaniel Young, pastor of the Shrewsbury Avenue AME Zion Church, 285 Shrewsbury Ave., said the point is, “We want these young men to grow up and have a meaningful impact on society.”

Young is one of about a half-dozen mentors—made up of clergy, educators, businessmen, police officers—who volunteer for three evenings and one Saturday morning a month for much of the year, working with potentially at-risk male youth in third-through-12th grades, helping them learn various life skills.

“We’re helping them overcome whatever obstacles they may find,” said Rodney Salomon, a mentor with the group.

Salomon works for the Asbury Park public school district, offering instructions in yoga and meditation and other coping skills. Working with the young members of this group, Salomon realized, “No one is ever lost.”

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Many in the group come from families who are clients of Lunch Break and often are dealing with a number of complex social issues, explained Sharda Jetwani Love, Lunch Break’s program director.

The mentors work with their young charges teaching them life skills, such as basic cooking ability and balancing a check book, to simply offering positive male bonding. And to more complex, emotional concerns, added Young, such as addressing anger and aggression.

Last Wednesday the group went to the movies to see “Wonder” and had pizza and talked about the movie’s message which concerns, in part, bullying.

During his time with the group, Police Lt. Juan Sardo said he’s seen a maturing among the young men. “They’ve gotten more disciplined,” he observed. “They’ve learned to be independent and interdependent.

“They’ve learned another important lesson,” Sardo added. “No matter what your situation, you can always be thankful for something.”

Messiah Woods, an 18-year-old from Red Bank, said he was thankful for discovering the group. He started with the group as a mentee and now is a mentor.

“What I learned and they can learn,” Woods offered, “is that they can be somebody, not just another statistic.”

This article was first published in the Dec. 14-21, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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