By: Star Noor, Features and Culinary Editor, Coco Eco Magazine
FIRST PUBLISHED IN COCO ECO MAGAZINE, 2016
He’s a Soul Man. A man who truly believes in the power of giving hope, and hope he gives to thousands of people all around the country, and the globe.
Many of us know the front-man Jon Bon Jovi from the 80’s rock and roll “hairband” Bon Jovi, or as an Oscar nominated actor in films such as Armageddon, Stand Up Guys, or Pain and Gain. His rock anthems have crossed decades and are virtually known the world over. He is by far one of the most celebrated and well-rounded legends of rock, but what’s interesting about today’s man we love is what’s behind the scenes of all the sex, drugs, and rock and roll persona of his celebrity. What’s best about Jon is his can-do attitude and his giving nature.
Born John Francis Bongiovi Jr., it’s no secret Jon is a Jersey Boy. So it’s no surprise that much of what he has undertaken in his philanthropic endeavors focuses on the Northeast region of this country.
With his giving hands are in many baskets, Jon and his wife Dorothea Bongiovi created and maintain the JBJ Soul Foundation, originally known as the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football League (AFL), which launched in 2004 and was founded by Bon Jovi and Craig A. Spencer but underwent a name change in August of 2009 making it the current day organization. This is a foundation which focuses on “bringing about positive change and helping the lives of those in need ONE SOUL AT A TIME.”
According to the foundation’s website, the object of their dedication is to help break the cycle of poverty and homelessness by combating “the issues which force families and individuals into economic despair.”
It is no wonder then, that this year Bon Jovi is set to be honored by the Clinton Foundation as the awardee of the Clinton Global Citizen Award on September 19th, 2016, marking a great year to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of JBJSF itself as well. Bon Jovi said, “There are so many wonderful causes and so many passionate people that are addressing them. We have been inspired by so many of our in-need neighbors who have come seeking help;” with Dorothea adding, “This is happening across our nation,” she said. “When there’s 15 percent of children going to be hungry at night in a nation like ours, that’s not an issue it takes a scientist to solve,” Bon Jovi concluded.
Currently, he and Dorothea are hard at work with several initiatives which aid and educate the public in the relief and prevention of poverty. Through the creation of JBJ Soul Kitchen and now the extended partnerships 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. (Bringing Everyone All Together) Center’s first year of operation. This partnership with local charities and fellow wealthy philanthropists to create B.E.A.T. has brought to the community a one stop hub for nutritional assistance, healthcare, and culinary related job training (opened in May of 2016 in Tom’s River, New Jersey). JBJ and team have successfully helped feed thousands of folks otherwise unable to provide nutritionally sound meals for themselves; in a shore town ravaged by super-storm Sandy back in Oct. of 2012; a township still struggling to rebuild. However, the center was created to offset a need which according to Bon Jovi “predated” the storm’ wrath of destruction. In this place, an unfortunate 1 in 5 residences live in poverty, and the need for assistance is widespread and crippling.
JBJ Soul Kitchen is perhaps one of the most unique and inviting restaurants in the world. Their motto, ALL ARE WELCOME TO OUR TABLE, is truly withstanding. With 54, 653 meals served, and a menu lacking prices, the organization hopes to bring to all people good food, made well, and served with “dignity”. No other work can be better since we all know that without dignity, all else is likely lost. In this farm-to-table eatery instead of set cash commodity, patrons are asked to either make a minimum donation to cover the cost of their own meals or larger donations to help offset the cost of meals for those who can only enjoy sustainable nutrition through volunteering. Only one hour of volunteer time will cover each meal consumed per day, and volunteering can lead to qualifying for job training which is integral to combating poverty and plight. As of date only 40% of meals served are earned volunteer meals and 60% are paid with donations, showing the steadfast support the program is receiving from the communities in which it is organized. Dedicated to “eliminating hunger, building relationships, and celebrating community,” JBJ Soul Kitchen has two locations in Red Bank and Tom’s River New Jersey, serving hope with every three course American regional cuisine plated to the public.
Additionally, Bon Jovi is working to end homelessness through JBJ Soul Homes which has created subsidized low-income housing as far away as South Africa. Currently, in conjunction with Project H.O.M.E. and People for People Inc., JBJSH has donated $20 million to build a 55-unit permanent low-income housing for adults in Philadelphia, including units dedicated to young adults, all of which are fully furnished. This repurposed and modernized building not only helps provide housing for those in need, but also helps to revive a community and sustain a local charity with its 12,477 square feet of retail space leased to help support People for People Inc..
Alongside being honored at the GCA, Bon Jovi will be also be performing, as well as Andrea Bocelli. “This House is Not for Sale”, Bon Jovi’s new album will be released October 21st of 2016.
Do your part, get involved. Hope is delicious.