In the Fall of 2022, the Grunin Foundation in collaboration with The People’s Lobbyist, is offering an in-depth Pragmatic Activism Cohort for 20 Monmouth & Ocean County nonprofit/business members.

This program will teach nonprofits and businesses the importance of advocacy and how they can get involved. The cohort will be led by The People’s Lobbyist®, Orville Morales, who teaches Pragmatic Activism using a six-phase approach:

Why We Exist
We believe that we cannot change people we disagree with until we face them. We work with folks who consider themselves invested agents who care about their impact in the world and are willing to speak their minds through their presence at work, in their neighborhoods, and beyond.

Who We Are
We are a consulting firm whose purpose is to inspire people to see how their actions have an impact on others.

What We Do
Our goal is to help people and organizations maintain a long-term commitment towards the social good, ensuring you are part of the broader, more public dialogue around topics you care about and allow for nuance and complexity to conversations and debates.

Pragmatic Activism
A strategic approach to social change that allows for intentional and reasonable action that is sustainable over time.

Tuesday, September 27th, 8AM – 1PM (Phase 1 & 2)
Phase 1: Where You Stand
We provide a pair of assessments to get a
sense of who you are, what you believe, and
explore the kinds of actions towards social
good you have done in the past or are willing
to move forward.

Phase 2: Tree of Influence
We facilitate a discussion to explore who
you can influence via public policy as an
advocate in your region. This workshop
includes a deep analysis of the various levels
of the government in the region and their
prevailing priorities of the day.

Tuesday, October 25th, 8AM – 1PM (Phase 3 & 4)
Phase 3: Other Voices in the Field

You are not alone in your region, so we
explore the other voices you must listen to
and consider when taking action. This
session includes exploring how these voices
advocate on behalf of issues important to
them.

Phase 4: Timing of Influence
Explore the timing of opportunities for
change in your region and identify the
action steps necessary to make the most of
that timing.

Tuesday, November 29th, 8AM – 1PM
(Phase 5 & 6)
Phase 5: Public Engagement
We will facilitate a discussion to prepare
you to begin talking about your efforts and
develop action steps for you to get started
in your pragmatic activism.

Phase 6: Triage of
Engagement

This session is all about planning, executing,
and troubleshooting public engagement if
things go wrong. But, ultimately, this phase
is about putting it all together and
providing a road map that can protect your
journey from negative fallout.

To learn more, visit: https://www.peopleslobbyistnj.com/

Who is the Pragmatic Activism Cohort for?

The cohort will accept 20 individuals from nonprofit organizations and businesses in Monmouth or Ocean Counties, based on an application process.

When will the Pragmatic Activism Cohort take place?

The training will take place over three sessions – with attendance required.

Location:
NJ City University @ Fort Monmouth
Squier Hall
283 Sherrill Avenue
Oceanport NJ, 07757

For directions, CLICK HERE

Session Dates/Times:

Tuesday, September 27th, 8AM – 1PM
Tuesday, October 25th, 8AM – 1PM
Tuesday, November 29th, 8AM – 1PM
Breakfast & lunch will be provided at each session.

*Please note: If circumstances arise and you are unable to make a session in person, we will make zoom available.

Who will be leading the Pragmatic Activism Cohort?

Orville Morales, The People’s Lobbyist®

To learn more about Orville, CLICK HERE.

In addition, Linda Czipo of the New Jersey Center of Nonprofits, will be a guest presenter during the cohort. 

How do I apply to be part of the Pragmatic Activism Cohort?

To apply to be a part of the cohort, please click here to complete this brief application by Tuesday, September 13th

Notifications to those accepted into the first cohort will be made no later than Friday, September 16th

What if my application is not accepted into the first pilot of 20?

We will be doing additional cohorts in the future and will put together a wait list based on applications this time around.  If you are not in the first cohort, we will be in communication about future opportunities. 

Is there a fee to participate in the program?

Absolutely not! We are so grateful to those giving of their time to participate in the cohort. Those who participate in the program will receive a $500 Visa Gift Card* as an acknowledgement of their commitment.

Is there a way to learn more before I apply?

Of course! On Thursday, September 8th at NJ City University @ Fort Monmouth, we will be hosting a breakfast panel session from 8:30AM – 10:30AM. For more information or to register, please CLICK HERE.

We’re looking forward to this first Pragmatic Activism Cohort, with more to come in the future!

*Important Note: Awards/Gifts/Stipends (cash and non-cash) that equal or exceed $600 per calendar year, are reportable to the IRS. This payment may be taxable. Please consult your tax advisor. W9 Form will be required for Awards/Gifts/Stipends that equal or exceed a cumulative total of $600 in a calendar year.

Our Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) Working Groups have begun. You can learn more about how we started these groups and the overall strategy by visiting our EDI Working Group webpage.

Each of the three groups (Empowering Youth Changemakers, Amplifying Diverse Leadership, Empowering Communities that Center Equity) met for the first time in September. The first meeting started with introductions of each member. We then gave an overview of the Grunin Foundation and how we got to this point in our EDI journey.

Before we jumped into the work, we wanted everyone to get to know each other a little better. These groups will be working together over the next several months so building trust and comfort is important. We broke the full team down into smaller groups and discussed the personal journeys in our careers as well as challenges we are facing. Group members shared stories, tips, resources and even a few tears of joy and inspiration.

Each table then discussed what their specific equity pillar (Empowering Youth Changemakers, Amplifying Diverse Leadership, Empowering Communities that Center Equity) meant to them. After the group members had a chance to discuss at their tables, they were able to share with the full room. One person at each table took notes which we compiled and sent back out to everyone so we can continuing building off these ideas at each meeting. We were also recommended a book from one of our group members – “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee – which the Grunin Foundation will supply to all EDI working group members who are interested in reading it.

We ended the first meeting with some great questions and suggestions that will guide this journey. One specific suggestion to note is that we should specifically call out what we are trying to do such as “Amplifying BIPOC Leaderships” vs. “Amplifying Diverse Leadership.” We are taking all of this feedback (or “feedforward” as we learned from our friends at Idea2Form) and will be revising our strategies and language as we get deeper into this work.

We’ll start the next sessions where we left off – really thinking about and discussing what each pillar means…

  • What does Empowering Communities that Center Equity mean? Specifically, what does “community” really mean? 
  • What does amplifying BIPOC leadership mean?
  • What does empowering youth changemakers mean?

Once we have these important conversations, we will get into the mapping exercise. This will help us gain a better understanding of the work that is currently happening at the Central Jersey Shore (Monmouth & Ocean Counties) in the realm of each of the above EDIB pillars. We will try to capture as many programs/activities as possible happening at the local level and work to understand where there are gaps.

We are looking forward to our future meetings and making more progress in helping to break down barriers, uplift marginalized voices, celebrate diversity, and champion a more just and equitable society.

Stay tuned for more EDIB Working Group updates coming soon!

As we dive deeper into our equity, diversity and inclusion journey at the Central Jersey Shore, we will be creating three working groups, one for each of the strategies below, inspired by the insight of our nonprofit and community partners:

  1. Empowering Youth Changemakers
  2. Amplifying Diverse Leadership
  3. Empowering Communities that Center Equity

We plan to hold monthly meetings from September to December to determine priorities, metrics and near-term goals. Each working group will meet once per month from September through December 2021.  

The goals for each of the working groups for this year will be: 

  • Map projects/activities already being done across the Central Jersey Shore.
  • Gap analysis of the projects & activities.
  • Source ideas for future implementation (e.g., Are there opportunities for enhanced support of existing work? Creation of new program partnerships?)
  • Review opportunities for program measurement.
  • Make recommendations for 2022 activity.

We pledge to remain transparent throughout this journey and share the outcomes of the working groups on our website as we move along.  We also know there will be many opportunities for community involvement moving forward.

Learn more about what we are doing to help break down barriers, uplift marginalized voices, celebrate diversity, and champion a more just and equitable society.

Young Audiences Arts for Learning New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania (YA) has a mission to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts. YA works toward a future where all children in the region engage in quality arts learning that nurtures creativity, expands cultural awareness, and fosters the development of critical thinking skills.

YA is a valued school partner providing programming led by teaching artists across all artforms and numerous cultures. They provide arts experiences to students directly by bringing professional teaching artists to schools. This eliminates barriers to participation and makes the arts accessible to students of every socioeconomic background, geographic area, and ability. YA delivers programming in formats designed to complement the workings of a school, including workshops, residencies, performances, and teacher professional development. All programming is designed to meet school-defined needs.

Arts Lab

The Grunin Foundation met with YA back in 2016 to discuss solutions to chronic absenteeism in our schools. They introduced us to their Arts Lab program, which harnesses the power of the arts to reduce chronic absenteeism. YA had applied for the All Kids Thrive grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation so they could establish the Arts Lab program in Mercer County schools. We agreed to match this $300,000 grant if they received it, and they did! We then began discussing implementing the program in Toms River. After meeting with Toms River Regional Schools administration and the Young Audiences team, it was decided that Silver Bay Elementary would be the home of the Arts Lab program.

Through performances, workshops, residencies, professional learning and family arts & creativity, YA worked with school administration, teachers, parents and students to tackle attendance issues and other challenges.

Arts Lab Pre COVID

Before the pandemic hit, Silver Bay Elementary students experienced Arts Lab in the classroom or as part of school assemblies. Here are just a few of the Arts Lab programs the Grunin Foundation team had the opportunity to visit in person before Covid hit…

Hip Hop Fundamentals – Hip Hop Fundamentals is an award-winning team of diverse professional breakdancers dedicated to Hip Hop Education, and the world’s only breakdance education company combining academic and social content with the world’s most dynamic dance form. Their mission is to educate, engage and empower. Hip Hop Fundamentals teaches academic and social content through the lens of Hip Hop dance. They honor the Black cultural roots of Hip Hop by upholding traditions and teaching diversity. Students (and teachers) not only get to watch and learn, they also can join Hip Hop Fundamentals on stage to show off their newfound Hip Hop skills!

Burble Fizz Kaboom – These are super energetic performances by theatre artist Rand Whipple, where students learn about the world of science through fun, humor and maybe a marshmallow or two. The unique ways in which chemical reactions, solutions, molecules, and phase changes are presented, keep students engaged and jumping to participate. They are able to be a part of the experiments and by the end, they are shouting out answers to scientific questions.

Dance to Learn – This program uses the art of dance to encourage students to explore, internalize, and transform classroom learning while developing their individual creative voices. We had the opportunity to watch a few Dance to Learn classes including the grand finale, where students acted out elements of their assigned theme (Ocean, Rain Forest, Safari, Jungle) using their own artistic interpretation through dance. It is an incredible way to integrate the arts as a learning tool for language arts, mathematics, science and social studies, physical education and music curriculums. Diversity, equity and inclusion is also at the forefront of Dance to Learn, which prioritizes excluded and systematically marginalized dance styles, and student populations.

Shifting Gears During Covid & What’s to Come

As we entered the Covid shutdown, YA quickly created a virtual roster for the Arts Lab programming. All Arts Lab teaching artists were prepared to deliver virtual programming by the fall of the 2020-2021 school year.

The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, and addressing the mental health outcomes will be critical. The Arts Lab program will focus on Social-Emotional Learning, which can help improve positive attitude towards self and others and increase students’ academic performances. Programs will also focus on joy, fun, connection, learning and equity & inclusion by integrating the arts into the curriculum.

While we can’t wait to see these programs fully return in-person, we love how Young Audiences has kept everything going during Covid. To stay up-to-date with Young Audiences and Arts Lab, visit www.yanjep.org.

Special thanks to our friends at Young Audiences Arts for Learning New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania (YA) for all they do to keep the Arts Lab program running successfully!

Michele Russo – President & CEO
Ann Betterton – Vice President for Institutional Advancement
Liz Winter – Education Operations Director

Our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Working Groups have begun. You can learn more about how we started these groups and the overall strategy by visiting our EDI Working Group webpage.

Each of the three groups (Empowering Youth Changemakers, Amplifying Diverse Leadership, Empowering Communities that Center Equity) met for the first time in September. The first meeting started with introductions of each member. We then gave an overview of the Grunin Foundation and how we got to this point in our EDI journey.

Before we jumped into the work, we wanted everyone to get to know each other a little better. These groups will be working together over the next several months so building trust and comfort is important. We broke the full team down into smaller groups and discussed the personal journeys in our careers as well as challenges we are facing. Group members shared stories, tips, resources and even a few tears of joy and inspiration.

Each table then discussed what their specific equity pillar (Empowering Youth Changemakers, Amplifying Diverse Leadership, Empowering Communities that Center Equity) meant to them. After the group members had a chance to discuss at their tables, they were able to share with the full room. One person at each table took notes which we compiled and sent back out to everyone so we can continuing building off these ideas at each meeting. We were also recommended a book from one of our group members – “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee – which the Grunin Foundation will supply to all EDI working group members who are interested in reading it.

We ended the first meeting with some great questions and suggestions that will guide this journey. One specific suggestion to note is that we should specifically call out what we are trying to do such as “Amplifying BIPOC Leaderships” vs. “Amplifying Diverse Leadership.” We are taking all of this feedback (or “feedforward” as we learned from our friends at Idea2Form) and will be revising our strategies and language as we get deeper into this work.

We’ll start the next sessions where we left off – really thinking about and discussing what each pillar means…

  • What does Empowering Communities that Center Equity mean? Specifically, what does “community” really mean? 
  • What does amplifying BIPOC leadership mean?
  • What does empowering youth changemakers mean?

Once we have these important conversations, we will get into the mapping exercise. This will help us gain a better understanding of the work that is currently happening at the Central Jersey Shore (Monmouth & Ocean Counties) in the realm of each of the above EDI pillars. We will try to capture as many programs/activities as possible happening at the local level and work to understand where there are gaps.

We are looking forward to our future meetings and making more progress in helping to break down barriers, uplift marginalized voices, celebrate diversity, and champion a more just and equitable society.

Stay tuned for more EDI Working Group updates coming soon!

It’s hard to believe the summer has come and gone and we are in the final quarter of 2021. In many ways, this year has been more challenging than the last, but we continue to see the strength and resiliency of the amazing Central Jersey Shore community.

One of the challenges we are all still experiencing is the inability to efficiently plan around the Delta variant. We know that so many nonprofits had to “pivot” (we’ll never say that word again after this year) and find new ways to operate and fundraise over the last 19 months. There have been many creative solutions born from the pandemic – some were learning experiences and some will stick around for years to come.

We’re happy to share with you what we’ve been doing this summer and give you a glimpse into what’s to come for the Grunin Foundation.

Upcoming Events for 2021

We have decided to put any further Foundation-hosted indoor events and seminars on hold until the spring of next year. After surveying our nonprofit partners to assess their comfort level, we made the call to keep our September Catapult Institute as an in-person event at the Sheraton in Eatontown. We maintained distance and provided masks and sanitizer. However, this will be our final in-person event of the year and we will be moving some things around to start planning for 2022. We will continue hosting small in-person meetings and working groups as scheduled. You can also still sign up for our Catapult Institute Virtual Lunch Hours which are happening monthly.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Working Groups

In July, we formally announced our Commitment to Equity and unveiled our EDI Framework, including changes to our website and the introduction of our EDI Working Groups. We began holding the EDI Working Group Meetings in September. Each group coincides with one of our three EDI strategies: Empowering Youth Changemakers, Amplifying BIPOC Leadership and Empowering Communities that Center Equity. You can read more about our EDI Working Groups here, and we will be providing updates on the work being done via blog posts on the EDI Working Group webpage.  

Grunin Foundation Board and Governance

As we strive to become a better funder, to help improve the quality of life for ALL residents of the Central Jersey Shore and to champion a more just and equitable society, we have been looking internally at our own board and governance process. In early 2022, we will be announcing new Grunin Foundation board members who will provide governance to help us ensure our grantmaking practices are equitable and in line with our mission, values, funding pillars and EDI framework. We are excited for the new additions to our board and will be sharing more information with you soon.

A Look Into 2022

We truly look forward to bringing our nonprofit partners and friends together next spring for a great Catapult Institute year and fun Foundation events where we can enjoy the celebration of just being present together. On behalf of our entire team, we are grateful for the trust, support and feedback our nonprofit community provides us. We wouldn’t be here without you.

We’re excited to bring you along for the next chapter of the Grunin Foundation’s journey and can’t wait to share more news with you soon. Stay healthy and we hope you have a rejuvenating autumn season.

Sincerely,

Jay Grunin Jeremy Grunin

The Mission of Interfaith Neighbors

Interfaith Neighbors (IFN) is a non-profit organization founded in May 1988 when local faith communities came together to address the growing problem of homelessness. Their mission is to assist those less fortunate among us to meet life’s basic necessities, while seeking to improve the quality of life for individuals and families and the communities in which they live. Through the years, their services have grown to include distinct programs for Monmouth County residents, including:  Rental & Mortgage Assistance, Nutrition and Meals on Wheels, Affordable Housing, Neighborhood Revitalization, the Business Development Center, Kula Urban Farms, MacroBites @ Kula, and SOAR.

The Impact of COVID

Executive Director Paul McEvily, remembers the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic like it was yesterday. He watched as the world started to make changes, shutting down airports and other travel. It was St. Patrick’s Day of 2020 when Paul noticed that New Jersey started to become concerned and there were rumors of travel restriction within the United States. Shortly thereafter, everything shutdown.

The first plan of action was to figure out how to keep running one of Interfaith Neighbors’ largest programs, Meals on Wheels of Monmouth County. The priority was how to continue getting food to homebound residents given the growing social restrictions. Thinking ahead to combat any roadblocks, the team proactively worked with Monmouth County officials to get volunteers the credentials needed to continue the food delivery program. Meals on Wheels would become even more vital as COVID took hold and senior centers closed, taking away the communal aspect of sharing a meal at six sites across Monmouth County. Interfaith Neighbors was able to quickly pivot to not only continue daily delivery of over 1,100 meals to seniors’ doorsteps, but added those who could no longer receive meals at the senior centers to existing routes.

Because IFN utilizes a hub-and-spoke delivery network that relies on volunteers, concerns increased on how to keep these volunteers safe; many who are seniors that were forced to take a step back to focus their own health during the pandemic. At the same time, IFN was receiving an influx of volunteer opportunity inquiries, including from college students who were temporarily unemployed. McEvily repositioned his staff to address the on-boarding of new volunteers and to plug in gaps where needed. The team doubled their drivers and never missed a day of delivery!

Another initiative heavily impacted by the pandemic was IFN’s homelessness prevention program. While the Rental & Mortgage Assistance team normally assists 300-350 families annually, the COVID shutdowns resulted in 25 to 30 daily calls from families with emergent needs. This equated to more than 400 households over a period of just six months, partly because the local economy is heavily reliant on the hospitality industry, which shut down overnight. With jobs lost and the financial need growing for so many, McEvily and the Interfaith Neighbors team did all they could to counsel clients on where to focus the money, ie for prescriptions, food, utility bills, etc. IFN was able to provide emergent rental assistance to those who qualified, with the help of local funders who stepped forward and asked how they could help. The 33 year old nonprofit quickly established a COVID-19 Emergency Financial Assistance Fund to provide support to individuals and families experiencing financial distress due to the pandemic. In all, over $500,000 was contributed to the fund by individuals, corporations and foundations. The fund continues to help families as the effects of the pandemic linger.

MacroBites @ Kula

Another part of the Interfaith Neighbors Network is MacroBites @ Kula, formerly Kula Café. In addition to being a community café and gathering place in Asbury Park’s underserved southwest neighborhood, Kula Café operated as a hospitality training and job placement program. With its shutdown due to COVID, it could no long be a viable conduit for the area’s young people entering the workforce. What seemed like a sad ending to a program that found stable employment for over 150 local youth since its 2013 inception, became a reimagining exercise that led to a worthy successor to the Café.

Childhood friends Fritz, Jarrette, and David are the founders of MacroBites @Kula, which is a ready-to-eat meal prep company. MacroBites preps, packs and ships healthy meals in the correct proportions. Fritz, Jarrette and David still had other jobs when they began this business and when they lost access to the kitchen they were using due to COVID, Paul reached out to them to talk about their goals. From that discussion, Paul knew this would be a great fit for not only the former Kula Café, but for the Asbury community. From there, MacroBites @Kula was born.

Fritz, Jarrette and David agreed to work with the young adults who were part of the Kula Café’s innovative workforce development program and are proud to be serving the community in which they grew up. In addition to shipping healthy meals, they opened up a small portion of the building for people to sit and be served meals. They’ve also contributed to the overall health of the community in other ways like hosting yoga in the park across the street from the café.

The Kula Farm

The Kula Farm is a social enterprise that provides on-site job training, educational programs, farm to table dinners and free fresh produce to neighbors in need, and has been in the community since 2015. Prior to the pandemic, the farm yield was sold to local restaurants and made available to those who were food insecure. The Asbury Park School District also collaborated with Kula Farm to provide meals to students. Any extra meals were given to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County to distribute to the community.

While the farm lost revenue generating capability from the restaurant shutdowns during COVID, it set up a commerce site so people could order fresh produce for pickup or delivery. This was a great way to ensure the farm yield didn’t go to waste and to fundraise. During the pandemic, Kula Farm collaborated with the AP Dinner Table Project, operated by local restaurant and provide fresh produce for the preparation and distribution to families in need due to the pandemic.

Silver Linings

While the pandemic has caused so much loss around the world, there have been some silver lining moments. The drive for people to help has been stronger than ever, even if their own situations weren’t optimal. Funders proactively reached out to see how they could help families in need. Grassroots efforts were spontaneously born that helped keep revenue flowing and services continuing. And, collaboration was stronger than ever, with many individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations coming together to make a bigger impact. A great example of this is Gwen Love, Executive Director of Lunch Break, providing her Red Bank location as a pickup and drop off area for meals that Interfaith Neighbors could distribute to their clients.

Interfaith Neighbors Today

Today, Interfaith Neighbors is nearly back to full speed. The workforce development program is up and running again at the farm. And while some senior centers are still not open, Interfaith Neighbors is working to find where the gaps are and how to fill them. They have many people who are volunteering and donating to help their neighbors and the community.

The Future

To stay up-to-date with Interfaith Neighbors’ programs and how they are helping our community, visit http://www.interfaithneighbors.org.

Lunch Break’s Mission

As a caring community, Lunch Break freely provides food, clothing, life skills and fellowship to those in need in Monmouth County and beyond. They strive to break the cycle of poverty for those they serve and guide community members in need to self-sufficiency and healthier, more productive lifestyles.

While the need was great prior to the pandemic, Lunch Break’s leadership, staff, volunteers and board could never have imagined how much more critical it would become.

The Impact of the Pandemic

Gwendolyn (Gwen) Love, Executive Director of Lunch Break, recalls watching the news in the beginning of March 2020. She knew the COVID pandemic was getting closer each day, but it never occurred to her or her staff and clients that everything was about to shut down. At the time, the Lunch Break dining room was at full capacity. The Client Choice Pantry was still open and clients came in daily to shop for perishable and non-perishable items needed for themselves and their family members. It was business as usual and Lunch Break was operating at full staff with employees and volunteers.

While Lunch Break’s Board of Directors and leadership team tried to put a phased plan in place to keep things running safely, they knew they had to get ahead of the health threat and sadly, shut down. It was a very emotional decision and the biggest concern was how it would impact clients. Lunch Break is more than a place to get a meal, clothing, pantry items or take part in life skills or wellness programs, it is a place for fellowship which would become even more important once quarantine hit.

That night, as Gwen drove home, she already had a plan in place on how to continue serving the community and met with staff the next morning to start the communication process. The most important part of the messaging was the “why.” They had to let their clients know why they were deciding to shut down and how they would continue to help them get the services they needed.

Later that week, Lunch Break had already transitioned the dining room to grab and go and the Client Choice Pantry moved from in-person shopping to curbside pickup. No clients were allowed inside the building, but could walk, bike or drive up and get what they needed. While this may sound like a straight forward transition, there were many logistical challenges to ensure everything worked smoothly. Gwen and her team had to reconfigure volunteers as many decided to take some time off due to COVID health concerns. They also had to take stock of necessary items and mass purchase disposable containers and utensils.

As the pandemic progressed, it was time for the staff to work from home and they had just a few hours to gather all of the necessary items they needed from the office. This was a very quick turnaround as the employees were already in a good position technology-wise to continue working from home. If someone did not have a computer at home, Lunch Break provided it as well as any additional supplies needed.

The motivation and wellbeing of staff was crucial to making these changes work during the pandemic. In addition to employees working from home, there was an in-house operations team that took care of the kitchen and maintenance of the building. Gwen met with each of those team members individually to get an idea of their comfort level and figure out how to work together while staying healthy. They had a system of weekly check-ins and daily work flow reports to ensure everything was running safely.

Transitioning for Success

Next came modifications to the building to better serve clients. An awning was installed so pickups could comfortably continue even in inclement weather. Doors were changed so large items could easily be transported in and out. They also rented pods to have better access to necessities while they were outside.

As we moved further into 2020, some of Lunch Break’s suspended programs gradually started to come back, specifically the Clara’s Closet. While clients were still not able to come into the building, they could have volunteers shop for them. If there was something a client needed that wasn’t available, Lunch Break would ask for these items to be donated.

For Lunch Break’s Life Skills program, it was a quick transition to the virtual world and they saw an increase in participation now that classes were online. Transportation and childcare had been barriers, but the ability to access the classes from home made it much easier. Lunch Break purchased laptops and Chromebooks for those who needed them, ensuring everyone had access. Many of the classes were recorded so clients could participate on their own time.

A fun addition to the Life Skills program was a cooking class for children. Lunch Break knew that focusing on mental health, especially during a pandemic, was so important and they wanted to do something to help kids. They created a “Cooking with My Hero” YouTube series where children (Junior Chefs!) could pick a recipe and a hero in their lives, and cook together. Lunch Break did the shopping, funded the food and dropped everything off to the clients. They made a cookbook with all the recipes and sent to their donors as a gift.

Support from Donors

The support Lunch Break has received throughout the pandemic has been nothing short of amazing. Donors proactively contacted Gwen and started a COVID Emergency Fund that provided $900,000 to those in need. They also received many deliveries of supplies and other necessary items from generous donors, volunteers and community members. The community collaboration was also incredible as local restaurants provided food to Lunch Break that was paid for by other local businesses. Everyone truly came together to help those who needed it most.

The Future

Lunch Break never skipped a beat, even on the hardest days. As the Lunch Break staff begins to return to the office and services begin to come back to pre-pandemic levels, the drive to help the community is even stronger. Visit Lunch Break’s website to stay up-to-date on their programs.

We are so happy to introduce you to our DIAL Intern, Camryn Morrow! Camryn came to us through the Diversity in Arts Leadership Internship program and will be with us until early August. Administered by Americans for the Arts and national partners, DIAL matches undergraduate students from backgrounds underrepresented in arts leadership with dynamic communities, energetic host arts organizations, and mentors to guide students’ personal and professional growth throughout the summer. While we are sad we only get to work with Camryn for ten weeks, we are grateful to have been paired with her and built a relationship that will last long beyond her internship! Learn a little more about Camryn and all of the incredible things she has accomplished and planned for the future.  

Camryn is a fourth-year Human Development and Community Engagement major at the University of Cincinnati. A Cincinnati native, Camryn was surrounded by the arts and artists her entire life, which played a significant role in her passion for the arts and the community.   

Camryn’s education was also fully immersed in the arts. Her elementary school was a magnet school and exposed her to the arts from the very beginning. She also attended a creative and performing arts middle and high school. These experiences had so many positive impacts on her life. It made learning exciting and kept her engaged. She was also exposed to philanthropy and nonprofits in the arts. This is what really made her excited about future opportunities. Camryn said, “I realized that this is something I could do. This is in the cards for me.”   

Committed to following in the steps of people she met through service programs, Camryn was excited to give back and make a difference. As a high school graduate, her passions remained in education and the arts, and with a background in service and creative writing, she didn’t know how to blend it all to translate into a career. 

Camryn began working with Breakthrough Cincinnati, a transformative experience that came at just the right time in her life as she was contemplating her future and searching for community. Breakthrough Cincinnati pairs college students with middle school students to help put them on a path for success. Through this program, Camryn helped kids stay engaged in their coursework and build relationships. Some of the kids had to deal with challenges in their home life, but Breakthrough Cincinnati was a place full of love and support for all – students, leaders, and peers. Camryn has always loved working with kids, and this allowed her to not only help others but to create lifelong relationships.

At the University of Cincinnati, Camryn started as a Sociology major, and while she loved it, she knew it wasn’t for her. Ultimately, she found her footing with a major in Human Development and Community Engagement. In addition to her coursework, Camryn has interned for several arts organizations and has also gone back to Breakthrough Cincinnati as an intern.  

During her time in the DIAL Internship program, Camryn is working with the Grunin Foundation and the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund (NJACRF). She is working on the NJACRF Impact Report project. She has had the opportunity to interview individual artists and arts organizations to help tell their stories of strength and resilience throughout the global pandemic. Camryn has used her knowledge and creativity to help us put procedures into place and assist in the structure of the NJACRF Impact Report. She is an incredible asset to both the Grunin Foundation and NJACRF!  

When Camryn has free time, she spends it with her friends, who empower her and allow her to be her best self. She loves reading and journaling and even started a book club at her University. Camryn also enjoys touring her city. Although she was born and raised there, she always finds something new, whether at a museum, cultural center, festival, or anywhere within the vibrant city of Cincinnati.  

Camryn plans to use her love of the arts, education, creativity, and passion for social justice to empower students and address inequities in education. We love working with her, and we know she will be highly successful in all she does!