Jon Bon Jovi opens hunger center in Jersey Shore town hit hard by Sandy

TOM RIVER, N.J. (WPVI) -- It was a celebration of new possibilities Tuesday in Toms River, New Jersey.

A group of dignitaries, including rocker Jon Bon Jovi, cut the ribbon on the brand new B.E.A.T. center in Toms River.

B.E.A.T. stands for "Bringing Everyone All Together." It's a new one-stop location that includes a food pantry, job training and other resources, along with the second of Bon Jovi's Soul Kitchen restaurants. That's where diners can get high-quality meals for a minimum $10 donation, or eat for free and volunteer their services to pay.

Jon Bon Jovi explains, "We are here to affect change directly. And in the Soul Kitchen or the B.E.A.T. center it's a microcosm of what we believe in - community. Bringing people together to help each other and not judging."

Ocean County is still recovering from super storm Sandy. Thousands are still out of their homes and financially unstable, and one in eight people struggle with hunger.

Pat Donaghue from The Peoples Pantry tells us, "These people have been suffering in silence and they're coming forward. These are solid people. These are blue collar middle class."

One of those in need is Christina Donahue, who says, "They were there in my time of need. Just so caring. Not just only did they provide food they provided comfort."

After having to move from place to place because businesses didn't want a food pantry next door, the B.E.A.T. center is a more permanent location where people can come for groceries, a meal and help.

Carlos Rodriguez of the FoodBank Monmouth and Ocean Counties says, "What we are trying to do is identify what's your underlying need and reason for needing emergency food. There's so many simple things that families, unfortunately, just don't know that these resources are available to them."

The B.E.A.T. center will connect clients to the services they need to get on their feet. It's happening with help from the Tepper Foundation and various donors.

Peter Unanue of Goya Foods says, "A lot of people were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and are struggling so we are really happy to help out."

The B.E.A.T. center is located at 1769 Hooper Avenue and is accessible by public transportation.
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