This week Jon Bon Jovi was awarded the 2017 Service to America Leadership Award from the NAB Education Foundation (NABEF) for "his ongoing efforts to combat hunger and homelessness." Among those saluting Bon Jovi on video were President Barack Obama -- with Gayle King narrating a tribute video highlighting Bon Jovi's work in the community and featured Sen. Cory Booker, Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, Sister Mary Scullion (Project HOME), and Kevin Ryan (Covenant House), among others. Previous honorees include: Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Quincy Jones, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, and Sharon Stone.
The New Jersey rocker's Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering positive change and helping the lives of those in need "one soul at a time." Back in 2011, Bon Jovi founded the Red Bank, New Jersey restaurant JBJ Soul Kitchen, with a "pay or pitch in" method in return for a good hot meal. In 2015, Bon Jovi once again lent his name and support to a community restaurant in his native New Jersey. The Spoon Full Of Hope eatery began in January 2014 serving meals in the Union Beach firehouse -- but lost its funding that summer. Bon Jovi picked up the slack through his charitable organization, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation.
In his acceptance speech on Tuesday, Bon Jovi said, in part, "There is a misconception that homelessness is a choice. I have yet to meet a homeless person who strived to achieve that. We must all work together to remove the labels 'Us and Them.' Inspiration and hope mixed with a little perspiration can change a life forever."Bon Jovi went on to say: "This is a conversation about a hand up. It is not about politics -- it’s about building communities one brick at a time. We aren’t relying on our government, because they can’t do it alone, and it’s not reality to expect philanthropy to solve this issue either. At the Soul Kitchens, we are simply bringing people together to share a meal, but his simple act has taught us that breaking bread leads to conversation and conversation can lead to a meaningful dialogue and perhaps a greater sense of pride in one’s self and in community. This is what moves me."Bon Jovi explained that the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Toms River, New Jersey is a win-win situation, no matter how you look at it: You are teaching the man to fish instead of giving him a fish. When you come into this restaurant, there are no prices on our menu. So, if you are in need, you participate -- and that means bussing the table, washing a dish, working in our gardens. If you are here to just enjoy a meal and affect change directly by buying a 'Pay It Forward' card, you are paying for your meal and for someone else's that are here in the restaurant or are going to come tomorrow, and you don't know the difference between who are in need and who are not in need."