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A night of hope to feed the soul

On January 16, 2014, over 100 guests came out to attend a benefit at the Downtown in Red Bank for "The Third Annual Night of Hope to Feed the Soul" to benefit the JBJ Soul Kitchen, The Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth County and the Community Affairs and Resource Center ("CARC"). The event provided its guests with an evening of food and entertainment, while also raising funds for these well-deserved non-profit organizations.

Hosted by Monmouth County Referral Group, ("MCRG"), with Debbie Noce from Social Butterfly Event Planning, the evening started off with delicious food by The Downtown, and then heated up with entertainment by Scott Elk, (who also served as EMCEE), Courtney McManus, Strumberry Pie, Alan Manzo, Almost Easy and comedian, John Svenda. While music filled the air and dancers the floor, many moved over to the Silent Auction where several businesses donated their products and services, one donation which included a painting by artist, David Banegas in addition to sports & music memorabilia. Beautiful table arrangements were provided by a Touch of Grace and the "Icing on the Cupcake", complements of Whipped Bites of Red Bank. Every gathering requires a photographer, and this night's credit goes to "More Than a Memory".

Midway through the evening, MCRG board members, Brian Freeman and Ken Scaggs, addressed the guests and thanked them for their support. Following suit, words of thanks were echoed by Douglas Eagles, Director of Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County Community Affairs and Resource Center and Beatriz Oesterheld and Ryan Simmons from the JBJ Soul Kitchen.

The Monmouth County Referral Group (www.monmouthcountyreferrals.com) "is a professional organization of like minded individuals dedicated to building relationships and exchanging business leads and referrals with fellow members. The individuals in this group belong to an elite class of business professionals that are highly respected in their fields - providing quality products and services to clients. Each member represents one industry, business or service. Members are your friends and neighbors, business ownes and professionals, people you already know and people you would like to meet. We live and work in the community, and want to help everyone do well in life and business."

The Mission Statement of the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County (www.bgcmonmouth.org) is "to provide safe places for young people in Monmouth County, especially those who need us most, where they can receive programs and services that will help them realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens." Their philosophy is "One organization, one team, one mission, one voice, bettering the lives of over one thousand."

The vision of the "Soul Kitchen" (www.jbjsoulkitchen.org) is to serve healthy, delicious, and when possible, organic meals. At the Soul Kitchen there are no prices on the menu nor are there seats reserved. Customers of the Soul Kitchen either pay the minimum donation or they may set up an hour of their time to volunteer to earn a dining certificate for a meal. Those who volunteer are guided by Soul Kitchen staff through their tasks. Volunteering at the Soul Kitchen can lead to qualifying for job training.

At the Soul Kitchen, "the main ingredient is Love, with a large helping of you". Their chefs prepare healthy, delicious meals with the freshest of ingredients, some of which are grown in their own organic garden in town. "If you hunger, or hunger to make a difference in your community, the JBJ Soul Kitchen is the place to dine.

The Community Affairs & Resource Center (www.carcnj.org) prides itself in "Creating Community, One Step at a Time". Formerly known as the Hispanic Affairs and Resource Center, it is a nonprofit social service organization established in 1980 and is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of community leaders. The organization provides a variety of programs and services which operate from two sites, the main office in Asbury Park, and a satellite office in Freehold. Services include Case Management, housing, utility payments and replacement of essential items. Languages spoken in CARC include English, Spanish and Creole.

The event raised $9,000 of which $3,000 went to each charity. A beautiful night was had by all. And, I was honored to be a part of this event, to eat, dance and 'chance' in the Silent Auction for fulfilling both hope and filling many souls.