By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
Thirteen is usually an unlucky number. However, 13 years ago Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea opened the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, and have brought nothing but happiness and resources to those in need. Bon Jovi described the restaurant as a “community kitchen” where there are no prices on the menu.
He wanted to give back and help those who couldn’t afford a healthy hot meal, or who need support services. The restaurant features top notch chefs who make their meals available to people who volunteer at the Soul Kitchen, or diners could leave a suggested donation. All the money raised goes to the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation.
Before they opened and renovated the former 1,100 square-foot auto body shop, Bon Jovi and his volunteers would serve meals out of two locations in the area. “At a time when one in five households are living at or below the poverty level, and at a time when one out of six Americans are food insecure, this is a restaurant whose time has come,” said Bon Jovi back in 2011.
Bon Jovi started his non-profit JBJ Soul Foundation in 2006, where his main goal was to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, “one Soul at a time.” The foundation has provided hundreds of low-income individuals and families affordable housing. He has also opened several food banks. During the height of COVID, Bon Jovi and his wife were making sure thousands of people didn’t go without a meal. From the Jersey Shore to the end of Long Island, the JBJ Soul Foundation had food banks opening and providing for anyone in need.
In 2023, the JBJ Soul Kitchen served a record number of meals. Of that record breaking number,
Bon Jovi also hosted the 6th Annual Mulligan for Meals Golf Outing to support the mission of alleviating hunger. They also hosted in the 8th Annual Chili Cookoff, which is held at the Toms River location, where first responders get a chance to show off their unique chili recipes.
His reach is not just local. The Gordon H. Mansfield Veteran Community in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, was constructed through a partnership between the JBJ Soul Foundation and the New England Patriots Foundation, providing housing and support services for homeless or at-risk veterans.
Bon Jovi was also extremely grateful to receive the Kohl’s Shopping Grant, with the funds being utilized to support the Hope & Comfort Center and The Feast Heartwarming Center for the Code Blue season.
The Boss Mistletoe Rock Radiothon raised over $72,000 for the JBJ Soul Kitchen. During the Radiothon, they received the Kohl’s National Giveback Initiative, which plays a crucial role in supporting the local communities. Over the past five years the JBJ Soul Foundation has entrusted me (Walter O’Neill) with delivering coats, gloves, hats, socks, backpacks, school supplies and toys to needy families in Long Branch and Asbury Park.
Bon Jovi and his wife have also donated the kitchen at the RWJBarnabas Health Center on the campus of Monmouth Mall in the Live Well Center. Their generosity and ties to the community are strong. When they are in town, they can be found at the Soul Kitchen cooking, cleaning and helping. Bon Jovi’s dad can also be found in the kitchen making his famous meatballs and sauce.
To date, nearly a quarter of a million meals have been served at the Soul Kitchen. Of those, 55% were earned by volunteering, the remaining 45% paid with a donation. The Red Bank location is at 207 Monmouth Street, and is open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Dinner is served Wednesday to Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. They also have a brunch on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Soul Kitchen is closed on Monday and Tuesday.