MANCHESTER – People are always interested in new and different types of businesses opening up. If you ask Pat Donaghue, the founder, president and chief executive officer of Inspire-NJ, the community doesn’t need a Cracker Barrel because that is exactly the kind of food that The Barn will be offering.
Donaghue said, “we will be offering and delivering hot, nutritious, supplemental meals to those in need daily. We will be also be delivering full pantry orders to the clients who are unable to get to the facility and we will be running mobile pantries on a weekly basis, especially to the Crestwood Villages.
“The Barn,” located on Route 70 West in the Whiting section of the township, is a 6,000-square-foot facility that is a combination supermarket-style food pantry, market with items for sale, and a restaurant.
The pantry allows clients to choose what they want, instead of being given pre-made bags of items. “We will be offering fresh produce, meats, cheeses, healthy canned and dry goods, bakery products and much more,” Donaghue said.
Throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties there are 280 food pantries. Only five of those pantries operate five days a week, she added. “We will be ensuring all needed food and supplies will be delivered to our most vulnerable seniors and the disabled, while running a brick-and-mortar site five days a week and providing mobile pantry services every weekend.”
INSPIRE-NJ was founded in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and opened a center in the Bellcrest Plaza on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River on November 12, 2012, working with the Toms River Township and Toms River Regional Schools.
They later joined with the Jon Bon Jovi Foundation and Fulfill, the foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, into a multi-agency group called the BEAT Center, designed to answer all the needs of a person, not just nutritional.
Donaghue said, “we will be training differently abled young adults in every aspect of each of these different ‘businesses’ and then we will work with our small business partners in the community for job placement. Our instructors, who are professionals in each of these industries and retired educators from the local school districts and colleges will also be reinforcing life and professional skills.”
The new establishment has been in the process of renovation and features a western motif. Recently, Mayor Robert Hudak, Councilwoman Michele Zolezi, and several others got a tour of what the new facility will offer.
During the tour another issue was addressed – loneliness – a problem the pandemic has made even worse. The Barn will offer an opportunity for the public to volunteer to help other members of the community.
“I’m in the process of applying for a grant so for the days were not open to bring in congregant meals at tables with linens and real plates and a waitress,” she said.
“This has been in the works for years,” Donaghue said. “We are in the process of purchasing the building and our landlord has been so gracious and so accommodating. The building is owned by the Mabie Family Foundation.”
“We put a lot of work into the building. It was closed for years. It needed new flooring, new plumbing new painting.”
Dee Pellegrinio, a member of the Board of the Mabie Family Foundation was among those who were looking over the building’s progress. “You are meeting one of the greatest human beings I know,” she said of Donaghue.
“There are really good people out there and these are great stories,” Councilwoman Zolezi said. “This is just amazing.”
“That is what is so exciting about this,” Mayor Hudak added. “It is the best of both worlds.”
The Barn will also be offering up Kohr’s Ice Cream and has partnered up with Gregory Kohr, owner and president of Kohr’s Ice Cream which is a staple at the Seaside boardwalk and which also has several ice cream parlors in the shore area.
Pellegrinio, who brought along her two dogs for the tour, was happy to hear about the “yappy hour” event planned for pet owners which will offer a chance for people to enjoy a meal and share some time with fellow dog owners.
“It is such a cool looking building. People stop in on a daily basis to see what’s going on and to see what is happening,” Pellegrinio added.
“They ask us what we are serving. It is all American country comfort food. In other words, we don’t need Cracker Barrel, I can do chicken fried steak,” Donaghue said.
“Another thing we can’t wait to do here is events. We are bringing entertainment in. We have Frank Sinatra singers and other musicians,” Pellegrinio said.
Donaghue’s goal is to acquire a building in Whiting to house the headquarters of other non-profit agencies.
“One of our biggest issues is bringing economic development to Whiting and this is a beautiful opportunity to have a catalyst. This is the beginning. We need someone to pioneer that process,” the mayor said.
“We’re going to get all those non profits to come into Whiting. These people could really use the help,” Donaghue said.
“It is overwhelming but in a very positive way,” Councilwoman Zolezi said.
“None of us are in this for the money. We’re in this for the smiles. Feeding people has been in my life’s blood,” Donaghue said.