Middletown and Keansburg, N.J. – Two Keansburg-based non-profit organizations which provide critical services and basic sustenance in the form of food, clothing, and/or shelter – The Kitchen at Saint Marks Food Pantry and Project Paul – were the recent beneficiaries of funding from the Middletown Lions Club, a volunteer service organization chartered in 1946 under Lions International. “Both St. Marks and Project Paul provide the basic necessities of life to people who are in desperate need,” noted Lion Chairwoman of the Board Lori Anne Oliwa. “Vulnerable individuals and families from throughout the area fully depend on the services provided and cannot survive without the assistance they receive. However, the organizations themselves are feeling the strain of increased demand and are stretched very thin. It’s vital they stay operational as the communities would be dealt a devastating hit if this type of help was no longer there. Imagine waking up hungry every morning and trying to survive,” Oliwa added. 

Middletown Lions helping to keep the cupboards stocked at The Kitchen at St. Marks Food Pantry during ‘Lion Tamer Third Thursday’ are, from left to right, Fran D’Esposito, Trudy Lagan, St. Marks Director Doreen Minutella, Chairwoman of the Board Lori Anne Oliwa, Tom Davis, and Beverly Bova Scarano. The $650 donation will literally keep the pantry operational, which has been experiencing difficulty due to a decrease in grants and other financial support

     The funds donated by the club were part of the proceeds from an annual auto show & motorcycle meet – ‘Classics For A Cause’ – which generated over $5,000 for the Middletown Lions Club Foundation. In turn, the foundation was able to help a variety of charitable causes in the area.

     Doreen Minutella, executive director of The Kitchen at St. Marks Food Pantry, noted quickly that the $650 donation will literally help keep the doors open. “The Middletown Lions Club has been a longtime supporter, and members are here every third Thursday of the month to literally provide, prepare and serve food. This is over and above the financial support and is a big help,” said Minutella. She added, “Clients know they will receive a wonderful meal when the Lions are here.”

The staff of Project Paul received a gift in the form of a $500 check from Middletown Lions Club Chairwoman of the Board Lori Anne Oliwa, second from left. Project Paul Client Services Directors Sister Nancy T. Herron, RSM, left, Sister Kathleen O’Halloran, RSM, third from left, and Executive Director Sal Cortale, right, took a moment to celebrate.

     The club has also conducted free vision screenings onsite for patrons of the food pantry and has provided free eye exams and eyeglasses when needed in addition to a hearing aid to one elderly client through the Lions International Affordable Hearing Aid Program.

     Sister Kathleen O’Halloran, RSM, and Sister Nancy T. Herron, RSM – both are client services directors at Project Paul – were extremely grateful for the donation of $500. “That must have been some fundraiser,” Sister Nancy joked after looking at the check. Sister Kathleen explained that while need in the surrounding communities has definitely increased, there has also been a ‘shift’ in that need. “People who never needed help before are seeking it now for the first time, ” she said emotionally. 

     The Middletown Lions Club is a volunteer service organization consisting of over 70 caring men and women who help the community through various charitable service and fundraising initiatives and programs. The club assists individuals and families in need both locally and globally through programs which address sight improvement and the prevention of blindness. In addition, the club administers eye, ear, and diabetes health screenings through the all-volunteer, traveling eye screening team – the ‘Knights of Sight’ – which provides free vision screenings for elementary school children in local school districts, including Middletown Township, Red Bank, Hazlet, and Matawan. Members also volunteer directly at St. Marks Food Pantry, Keansburg, by purchasing and preparing homemade meals for the hungry. The Middletown Lions Club underwrites free eye exams, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for those who cannot afford them and donates funds to local charities that advocate for disabled individuals and for families and children with special needs.

     The club meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at various locations in Middletown. Membership is by invitation, and guests are welcomed at meetings. For more information, contact Lion Chairwoman of the Board Lori Anne Oliwa at [email protected] and visit, the website of the Middletown Lions Club.

     Information on Project Paul is available by calling (732) 787-4887 and by viewing the website Information on The Kitchen at Saint Marks Food Pantry is available by viewing the website or by calling (732) 495-5227.

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...