Lunch Break Life Skills Program

Offers Hope And Chance for a Brighter Future

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly had an impact on the Lunch Break Life Skills employment and job skills program. Job fairs were canceled, training was postponed, and one-on-one, in-person coaching became nonexistent. Despite the challenges, the Life Skills team turned many of these obstacles into opportunities for growth and expansion. With many participants achieving their dreams of higher education and finding permanent housing and employment, the Life Skills Program has helped countless others on their path to self-sufficiency.

While the pandemic was a challenge, the team tackled it head on, by modifying one-on-one coaching sessions to a virtual format, using Zoom and Google Hangout calls to meet. Thinking it might result in a significant drop in volunteers and participants, the Life Skills Program saw quite the opposite: a 41.7 percent increase in the number of volunteers/coaches and 54.4 percent increase in participants since 2020. Also benefiting from the virtual format, English As A Second Language (ESL) classes saw an increase in participants. Previous to the pandemic, three in-person classes were held on Monday nights at the Life Skills Center. Once social-distancing protocols were mandated, the classes began meeting virtually using Zoom to connect with students. This format made it easier for those with child care and transportation issues to participate. Prior to that, it was an obstacle. The program also partnered with the Monmouth Day Care Center, offering ESL classes to parents. This resulted in additional sessions on Tuesdays via Zoom. 

In addition, the Life Skills Program team put together a curriculum of Zoom classes featuring advice from experts in financial, wellness, job skills and technical fields. Some of the  classes offered were “Paying Bills in the Pandemic,” “Zoom Like a Pro,” “Self-Care During Quarantine,” “Resume Writing,” “How to Have An Out of the Park Interview via Zoom,” and “Everything you Need to Know About Google.” Classes can be accessed online at www.lunchbreak.org.

The participants were not the only ones who needed help during the pandemic. In order to make sure Life Skills coaches and volunteers continued to be engaged in the program, managers used Zoom to hold bi-weekly check-ins and training. The Life Skills Program also partnered with other non-profits such as the Affordable Housing Alliance, Displaced Homemakers, and the Mental Health Association, to further educate coaches on the programs and services available in the area.

The Life Skills Program is one of a myriad social service programs offered at Lunch Break, including our Children’s Cooking Class, Clara’s Closet clothing and Suit Up business attire, the Mobile Community Garden Market and Community Picnic and School Supply Give-Away among others. Lunch Break serves Continental breakfast and lunch six days a week, free of charge, to financially insecure families and individuals, as well as offering clients the opportunity to shop for nutritious, fresh produce and groceries through our Client Choice pantry. Meals are delivered to outreach communities and the homebound. During the COVID-19 pandemic Lunch Break saw an exponential increase in the number of people requesting meals and groceries. Through the generosity and support of donors and volunteers, the organization continued to serve without interruption, modifying meal and pantry distributions to meet safety guidelines.

Lunch Break was established 38 years ago, when a group of citizens, concerned about the well-being of their neighbors, formed a coalition of hunger heroes to combat food insecurity within their community. At that moment, founder Norma Todd’s vision of a caring community was formed. Now the organization has expanded from a humble food pantry to include more than 22 programs, with more than 2,000 volunteers, as well as Board members and Advisory Council and staff, who support our community members as they work toward self-sufficiency.

If you would like to know more about how to get involved or know someone in need of help, contact the Life Skills Operations Manager Mary Ann LaSardo at [email protected] 732-747-8577, ext. 3200 or Life Skills Coordinator Eleanor Herdeen at [email protected] 732-747-8577, ext. 3201.

Lunch Break freely provides food security, clothing, fellowship and Life Skills to those struggling with financial insecurity. The organization is proud to sponsor with corporations and local businesses. It’s a wonderful way for corporations to gain exposure to Lunch Break’s community, including friends and volunteers.

Partnerships include:

  • Sponsoring an event, program or food drive or backpack and school supply give-away
  • Volunteering time
  • Becoming involved in the Life Skills Program through internships, coaching and mentoring opportunities
  • Accessing prospective employees through Life Skills employment training programs

For more information about corporate partnership opportunities, contact Development Manager Jill Govel-Gwydir at [email protected], (732) 748-8577, Ext. 3107. For Life Skills partnerships, contact Life Skills Operations Manager Mary Ann LaSardo at [email protected], (732) 747-8577, Ext. 3200.

Lunch Break accepts donations online at www.lunchbreak.org or at its headquarters, 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd. in Red Bank. Follow Lunch Break on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Give local, stays local, helps locals. #whywebreak #givelocal  

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