UNION BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - Rocker and philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi is sponsoring a community restaurant in a Jersey shore community still struggling mightily to recover from Superstorm Sandy.
Through his Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, he is providing financial backing to Spoon Full of Hope. The church project began serving meals in January in a firehouse in Union Beach, not far from his childhood home of Sayreville.
It lost its funding last summer.
``Union Beach, like so many other hard-hit communities in our area, is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,'' Bon Jovi said Tuesday. ``We recognize that by supporting Spoon Full Of Hope, we are not only providing families with a hot, nutritious meal in a warm, welcoming setting, but also providing hope to those who are still rebuilding their lives.''
Patrons can either pay a minimum donation or volunteer an hour of time to earn a dining certificate for the volunteer and four family members. Since it started serving meals at the Union Hose Fire Co. No. 1 in January, the program has handed out about 70 meals each Wednesday night, with about half the diners using volunteer certificates for their food.
It's similar to the JBJ Soul Kitchen, a community restaurant Bon Jovi founded in Red Bank in 2011.
Union Beach was one of the hardest-hit communities at the Jersey shore when Sandy hit in October 2012, and many residents still are unable to return to their flood-damaged homes.
The program is an outreach effort of Gateway Church of Christ. It partnered with Gigi Liaguno-Door, whose Jakeabob's restaurant was destroyed in the storm, to open the pop-up restaurant.
``I had seen the need, witnessed the struggles, and knew something had to be done,'' she said. ``I wanted to create a warm and welcoming environment where neighbors could laugh, cry and encourage each other to keep on pressing forward.''
The program has three seatings each Wednesday night at 5, 6 and 7 p.m.
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