TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — Rock star and philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi and local charities are opening an anti-hunger center in a section of the New Jersey shore devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
The Jersey-born rocker and his Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation announced plans Tuesday for the B.E.A.T. Center, which stands for Bringing Everyone All Together. The center site is designed as a one-stop facility to help people get food stamps, health care, meals for at-risk children and seniors, and culinary-related job training. It will open later this year in Toms River.
The center also will house a second JBJ Soul Kitchen community restaurant, where diners pay a minimum $10 donation or do volunteer work for their meals. That first one opened in 2011 in Red Bank, New Jersey.
Bon Jovi says Ocean County suffered the worst damage from the October 2012 storm, but has not gotten a proportionate share of aid.
"Ocean County was directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy; it was not a wealthy county to begin with," he said. "At one point or another, 45 percent of households that had kids needed emergency food relief services during the course of the last year. I know people who have been hungry. You'd be shocked to know these hardworking, middle-class people from the tri-state area who after the economic downturn couldn't afford to keep a consistent, nutritious meal on the table."
Toms River was one of the hardest-hit communities during Sandy. The nearby Ortley Beach section was devastated and many homes and businesses — not to mention the main road through town — still have not been rebuilt as the third summer after the storm approaches.
Bon Jovi is partnering with the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, The Peoples Pantry and the David Tepper Charitable Foundation to provide $5 million in services to needy families in the B.E.A.T. Center's first year of operation.
The center joins other charitable endeavors undertaken by Bon Jovi, including the construction of 440 units of affordable housing for homeless or low-income families; donations to numerous Sandy relief efforts; and two Soul Kitchen restaurants, including a smaller third one in a firehouse in storm-tossed Union Beach, New Jersey.
"With hunger and homelessness, I realized 10 years ago that this was something we could make a dent in — just a dent — that didn't need a scientist to create the cure," he told the Associated Press. "That we, with a little money and action and then desire, that we could in fact make a dent. We're certainly going to try."
His band, Bon Jovi, has been one of rock and roll's most popular acts for the past 32 years, with hits including "Livin' On A Prayer," ''You Give Love A Bad Name" and "Wanted Dead Or Alive."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC