The People's Pantry in Ocean County is holding their 6th Anniversary Gala and Casino Night this month to thank all those who've helped them in their mission to feed the hungry.

While they continue to impact hundreds of lives across Ocean County, the work of The People's Pantry is far from complete.

Executive Director Pat Donaghue says the people they serve are often too prideful to ask for help.

"They're not used to it, these are working people that somehow, someway something happened that brought them through my door (The People's Pantry)," Donaghue said. "It's the one thing we could do to help offset their monthly bills. These are people who don't ask for help, they're not in the system. We're looking at our own data and the majority of who we work with come in maybe once every three-four months."

She said it could be a senior, "whose tax bill came in and now they can't buy food."

Donaghue says the face of hunger or food insecurity isn't what you think it is.

"People don't realize that these are people (who come in for help) who are in their neighborhood," Donaghue said. "These people have been in need and they're struggling but they're working and paying taxes and they're in the communities and their kids go to school with your kids."

There's still a stigma or misunderstanding associated with hunger.

"The general consensus is people who are in need of a service that we provide just don't want to work, the problem is is that they do work and they work a lot and they can't get any other services because their income might be too high but their bills match their income...and something's gotta give, and the first thing that goes is food," Donaghue said.

In addition to this being a fundraiser, it's also about raising awareness about an issue that many may not understand.

"You wouldn't expect the people we serve to be the people who are in need," Donaghue said. "This is the working poor, these are people who are working two and three jobs but because of their income they get no social services and there's a shortfall and food is the first thing to leave the table and we can't have food leave the table."

The Gala and 60's Rat Pack Casino Night, which includes cocktails, food, drinks and a raffle at the end, takes place on September 26 from 6:00 - 10:00 pm at Laurita Winery and you're more than invited to attend and are encouraged to donate if your means allow to help their mission continue.

"Last year we provided service in-excess of 47,000 times, we distributed 1,600,000 pounds of food and we clocked just under 1,300 volunteer service hours," Donaghue said.

There will be three honorees who will receive recognition and thanks at the Gala:

  • Community Partner Award:
    "JBJ Soul Kitchen” 1769 Hooper Ave. Toms River NJ.
    A project of the JBJ Soul Foundation
    Founded by Jon and Dorothea Bon Jovi
  • Community Hero Award:
    Toms River Township Police Dept.
    Founded 1933
    Chief Mitch Little
  • Community Impact Award:
    Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group
    Founded 2012 following SuperStorm Sandy
    Executive Director Susan Martichek

You can purchase tickets through their Eventbrite page and learn more about the Gala on their Facebook event page.

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