Teachers, counselors, and other school personnel from across Monmouth County converged on Bell Works on Saturday, June 4th to enjoy an afternoon of relaxation and rejuvenation as a celebration of their extreme dedication and perseverance these last two years in particular throughout the pandemic.
Hosted by the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County and JBJ Soul Kitchen, this event titled “Celebrating You” featured a Demonstration Kitchen by JBJ Soul Kitchen with an introduction by Dorothea Bongiovi, blowouts, haircuts/styling, and makeovers by owner Glen Goldbaum and his team of artists from Lambs & Wolves, as well as an array of activities coordinated by the doctors at Bell Wellness. Dr. Dan Grossman and his Bell Wellness colleagues offered chair massages, acupuncture, and posture screenings among other services designed to encourage the educators to be mindful of their total health and well-being. “Thanks to the generosity of the Bell Works’ businesses and local mental health organizations, I feel rejuvenated and ready to better serve my students as the school year comes to a close,” said Jackie Jester, a math teacher at Collier High School in Marlboro.
Chef Emily Yasi of JBJ Soul Kitchen treated the audience to a demonstration of Soul Seasoned Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken, a crock pot recipe that Chef Emily chose specifically for school staff to prepare a simple meal that will be ready when they come home from a long day at work. Co-founder Dorothea Bongiovi welcomed the school personnel and explained the concept of JBJ Soul Kitchen. “We know at Soul Kitchen that, when we break bread, we break down the barriers between us,” said Bongiovi. “We are committed to creating a community where everyone is treated with dignity and respect regardless of their socioeconomic status.” Guests then enjoyed delicious samples of the recipe, served by an enthusiastic and faithful team of JBJ volunteers.
While everyone has struggled these past several years throughout COVID, school personnel have endured not only their own personal challenges but also the pain of seeing their students struggle. Marie Fiorentino, a nurse in the Keansburg district, reflected, “We have not seen anything like this in our lifetime, and our kids are really struggling. They were anxious about school before, but now so many just do not want to come and they’re having such a hard time.” This is exactly the reason many of the Bell Works vendors volunteered to participate in this wellness event. Dr. Grossman of Bell Wellness said, “It was truly an honor to offer our appreciation for their efforts and to give back to them a small token of our gratitude.” Jennifer Marmorato, owner of Enchanted Blossoms who donated bouquets of flowers for each participant, stated, “I could never thank our teachers enough! They have been through so much, and they deserve thanks from all of us.”