By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
Two well-known shore restaurant owners pledged this week to sleep on the Asbury Park boardwalk until $50,000 is raised for the construction of a new Covenant House in the city.
Covenant House is a charity that helps homeless youth. The organization is partnering with Asbury Park’s Interfaith Neighbors in this program, which is called Rights of Passage. The program provides intermediate housing and guidance for homeless teens as they prepare to live on their own.
Marilyn Schlossbach, who owns the Marilyn Schlossbach Group which includes Langosta Lounge on the city boardwalk, and Joe Leone who owns Joe Leone’s in Point Pleasant Beach and Sea Girt, have agreed to sleep on the boardwalk in cardboard boxes, until $50,000 was raised for the charity.
A kick off party was held Tues., May 15 at Schlossbach’s Langosta Lounge and Asbury Park Yacht Club before a candlelight ceremony sent Schlossbach and Leone to their sleep out boxes.
Leone’s father, Ralph, provided two large cardboard boxes made from commercial refrigerator boxes, with holes cut out, for them to sleep in.
Leone said he has participated in similar executive sleep outs in New York City for Covenant House and hopes to raise awareness of youth homelessness in the shore area.
He said he was not worried about staying the night on the boardwalk.
“These kids live out on the streets, in the cold…all year round,” he said. “If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I’ve been blessed and that’s why I wanted to do something for the community.”
Leone said the event was publicized on social media and the radio and as of Tuesday night $10,284 had been raised.
Leone said he had been working on the sleep out with Covenant House and as soon as Schlossbach learned of the project she wanted to join.
Schlossbach, who has young twin daughters, said, “It’s actually going to be relaxing.”
She said being enclosed in the box could be a bit claustrophobic so her husband drilled another hole for some cross ventilation.
Schlossbach is known in the area for her charity work and involvement in Interfaith Neighbor’s Kula Cafe and said she was happy to be part of the sleep out.
“I have a non-profit and I love the collaboration of Interfaith Neighbors and Covenant House,” she said.
She said she employs many teens at her businesses and said they do well at work but often go home at the end of the day to a difficult home environment.
“So many people see young people on the streets and don’t know what to do about it. That’s why what Joe and Marilyn are doing is so powerful,” Jim White, Executive Director of Covenant House, said. “With this kick-off event they are rallying the whole community to the cause of homeless youth. We could not be more grateful.”