Middletown, NJ  – Giving back to the community was a call to action today at the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast at Branches, West Long Branch, hosted by The Community YMCA and the YMCA of Western Monmouth County. More than 300 children, teens and adults attended the event to celebrate the life of Dr. King and his legacy of service to others.

This event has become a proud tradition of the two Monmouth County YMCAs, said Richard Ayres, Interim CEO and Chief Financial Officer for The Community YMCA. “We feel that it is our obligation as a cause-driven organization to promote the legacy of Dr. King and to encourage everyone, especially our youth, to embrace his teachings so they may contribute to our community in a positive way.”

The Ys invited all to put Dr. King’s lessons into action by getting involved in an upcoming community service project to help strengthen the community. Projects include clean-up days at Y camps in May and June, volunteering for youth leadership events and programs and helping to raise funds for the annual Strong Kids Campaign, which helps provide financial support for children and families in need of Y membership and programs.

The event featured keynote speaker Abraham Lopez, executive director of the New Jersey Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development, and music from the St. Stephens AME Zion Church Youth Choir, Asbury Park.

Wayne Boatwright, a member of The Community YMCA Board of Directors and Vice President of Cultural Diversity for Meridian Health, announced the winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest on community service: Aderike Adesayna, a junior from Neptune High School, and Brandon A. Fuertes, a junior at Middletown High School North. The students both received a savings bond for college, made possible by a donation from Two River Community Bank.

Monmouth County Prosecutor Peter Warshaw, Jr. presented the Humanitarian Award to Tiara Anderson, a senior from Neptune High School, in recognition of her community volunteerism. It is the second time that Tiara has received the distinction from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. Tiara also served as the mistress of ceremonies for the event.

The program also included: reflections on Dr. King from Jayla Berry, a senior at Red Bank Regional High School; remarks from Sean McGee and Kenneth Morgan from Alpha Phi Alpha; introduction of the keynote speaker by Therran Thompson, a junior at Neptune High School; and, prayers from the Reverend Derenzer Johnson of St. Stephens AME Zion Church.

For more information on Y volunteerism, call The Community YMCA at 732-671-5505 or The YMCA of Western Monmouth County, 732-462-0464.