Lunch Break Announces 2019 Fall Gala Nominees

Content provided by our partner, Lunch Break ~

Ralph and Margaret Mucerino, The Count Basie Center for the Arts’ arts education and outreach programs, and OceanFirst Bank and Christopher D. Maher, Chairman & CEO, will be the honorees at Lunch Break’s Fall Gala on Friday, October 11, 2019, at the Sheraton Eatontown. The honorees are being recognized for their outstanding service and commitment to Lunch Break’s mission of freely providing life’s basic necessities of food, clothing, life skills and fellowship for greater Monmouth County and beyond, while guiding families and individuals in need to self-sufficiency and healthier, more productive lifestyles.

The honorees were presented in June during a kickoff reception at the river-front residence of Mary Burke, owner of Heritage House Sotheby’s International Realty and last year’s Gala honoree, and husband David Graham. The couple hosted a grand evening — complete with sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, an eclectic array of main courses, including meat and seafood delicacies, as well as decadent desserts.

“We are humbled by the dedicated support and service these distinguished volunteers provide Lunch Break, ensuring that we can continue to honor our mission and expand our services,” said Executive Director Gwendolyn Love. “I am proud and grateful to acknowledge each of these recipients for their contributions to Lunch Break as we enhance our ability to serve our community.”  

The Fall Gala awards and honorees are:

The Norma Todd Service Award: Ralph and Margaret Mucerino

The Heart to Hand Award: The Count Basie Center for the Arts (arts education and outreach programs)

Corporate Platinum Partner Award: OceanFirst Bank, Christopher D. Maher, Chairman & CEO


Ralph and Margaret Mucerino

The Norma Todd Service Award

For Ralph and Margaret “Peggy” Mucerino, giving back to the community is a family affair. About 16 years ago, they received a mailing about Lunch Break and were encouraged to seek more information about the organization, which eventually led to a longtime commitment. It was their first monetary donation that turned into almost two decades of involvement, including volunteering at the pantry and kitchen, collecting toys, food, clothing, and school supplies, and providing mentorship to clients. Every holiday season for many years, the family has adopted up to four Lunch Break families, providing gifts and food to help make their holidays a happy one.  For Mr. and Mrs. Mucerino, this also has been a great way to teach their two daughters, Meghan and Caitlin, to appreciate all they have, while encouraging them to give back to less fortunate community members.

Ralph and Peggy Mucerino

 The Mucerinos’ desire to help others has deep roots that are very close to their hearts. Both grew up without means, and each knows what it’s like to not have an abundance of food or many material possessions.  Growing up, they recall neighbors and the church community helping their families, which is what drew them to Lunch Break. In addition, having lived and worked around the world, the Mucerinos can sympathize with many of Lunch Break’s clients who have difficulty speaking English and are trying to make a life for themselves in the community.

 In addition to their work with Lunch Break, the Mucerino’s support Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, St. Francis Food Pantry in New York City, and the Monmouth County SPCA. Mr. Mucerino is an active member of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, where he helps to support school-age and undergraduate children through scholarship funds. Mr. and Mrs. Mucerino also established a Mucerino Family endowment at Sacred Heart University for the benefit of students in need of financial support.


Count Basie Center for the Arts

 Art education and outreach programs

Heart to Hand Award

 The Count Basie Center for the Arts has been a premier entertainment venue for years, known for drawing acts such as Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, and national tours of the best Broadway shows.  What most people don’t realize is that the Basie, a not-for-profit organization, is about so much more than simply entertaining patrons. They are committed to being partners in building a vibrant and culturally aware community in Monmouth County and surrounding areas.

Count Basie Center for the Arts: Vice President of Education Yvonne Scudiery and CEO and President Adam Philipson

In fact, The Basie is dedicated to bringing arts and music education, enrichment, and most importantly, fun, to the community, offering programs for developing artists, students, schools, professionals, and the community at large. One such program is mindALIGNED, a collective impact initiative that is working to bring creative teaching back into schools.  According to Adam Philipson, Basie Center President and Chief Executive Officer, “We’re teaching teachers how to bring creativity back into the classroom, and use that in their lessons, to manage classes, and help kids deal with stress.” 

The Basie also works to engage the community through arts and entertainment that celebrates its diversity. For example, they have the thriving Calpulli Mexican dance program, where children and parents can participate together and reconnect with their heritage.

Count Basie Center for the Arts: Yvonne Lamb Scudiery, Vice President of Education; Olivia Conti, Amanda Philipson, Ava Romano, Alejandra Morales, Francesca Ranucci; Adam Philipson, CEO and President

The Basie Center is in the midst of a major expansion, which will enable the organization to enhance its partnerships with schools, organizations, and individuals throughout the community. Under Mr. Philipson and Vice President of Education Yvonne Lamb Scudiery’s leadership, the Count Basie Center for the Arts has become a change agent in the community, and they expect to continue building that legacy.  


OceanFirst Bank, Christopher D. Maher, Chairman & CEO

Corporate Platinum Partner Award

 OceanFirst Bank’s strong commitment to being a good neighbor and great corporate citizen is as old as the institution itself.  Founded in 1902, OceanFirst took its commitment to helping those throughout central and southern New Jersey to the next level in 1996, becoming the first bank in the U.S. to establish a non-profit foundation in conjunction with an initial public offering.

 Over the years, OceanFirst has given more than $39 million to hundreds of local organizations, schools, and individuals, focusing on the areas of housing, youth development and education, improving the quality of life, health and wellness, and the arts. As a true neighbor, OceanFirst is committed to reacting quickly when the need arises, and to staying involved with organizations that have the most impact on a community.

OceanFirst Chairman and CEO Christopher Maher with wife Maria and daughter Elizabeth

 Christopher D. Maher, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of OceanFirst, joined the bank in 2013 and was named President and CEO in 2017. During his tenure, he has led the Bank’s significant expansion, which has in turn almost doubled foundation assets, increasing the level of philanthropic giving. He encourages employees throughout his organization to do what they can to make a difference in the community.

 OceanFirst has been supporting Lunch Break for many years through volunteer and philanthropic efforts. According to Mr. Maher, their commitment to Lunch Break stems from the work the organization does “to serve people who have great difficulty finding traditional support. It’s a particularly vulnerable group, where support from OceanFirst can make a tremendous difference and impact a lot of people.”

For information about underwriting opportunities and sponsorships and tickets for the Fall 2019 Gala, contact Jill Govel-Gwydir at (732) 747-8577, Ext. 3107, or To purchase tickets online:

Lunch Break President John Klein; Lunch Break Director of Administration Millie Jeter; Lunch Break Administrative Assistant Peg Rizzo; Lunch Break Executive Director Gwendolyn O. Love; Mary Burke, owner of Heritage House Sotheby’s International Realty, past honoree and event host; Lunch Break Marketing and Communications Assistant Ellen McCarthy; Lunch Break Development and Marketing Manager Jill Govel-Gwydir; Lunch Break Bookkeeper Barbara Hickock; Lunch Break Board Vice President and Gala Co-chair Mimi Keenan; Tina Pflaster; Gala co-chair; Lunch Break Board Member Josephine Guttadauro; Lunch Break Grant Writer Jennifer Jones

Lunch Break, accepts donations online at or at its headquarters, 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd. in Red Bank. Follow Lunch Break on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Give local, stays local. #whywebreak #givelocal 

Bill Denver Photography

Cover Photo: Kick-off honorees: OceanFirst Chairman and CEO Christopher Maher; Count Basie Center for the Arts CEO and President Adam Philipson; Lunch Break Executive Director Gwendolyn O. Love; Mary Burke, owner of Heritage House Sotheby’s International Realty, past honoree and event host; Peggy and Ralph Mucerino









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