It's his way of giving back to the community and helping "one soul at a time". And he wants to expand so that more people are benefited by his "Pay It Forward" method.
Jon Bon Jovi found the road to stardom with his hit single Runway in 1980, according to Biography. From then on, it's been an upward path to success for him and with the consistent release of quality music, it's no surprise he's made a home in the hearts of his fans. But there's another side to him that's got our interest - the one that believes in giving back to the community however he can. The 57-year-old singer-songwriter is a philanthropist who makes the effort to go above and beyond to help those in need. For him, it's not about the photo ops and promotions, it's about giving a chance to the less fortunate.
And his first and lasting venture is the one he opened with his wife, Dorothea Hurley - community restaurants aimed at tackling issues of food insecurity. He wanted to be able to give those with limited resources the opportunity to enjoy a free meal with no judgment.
In 2011, the couple opened the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey. According to MSN, this community restaurant was created to ensure that everyone has access to a nutritious and delicious hot meal. Unlike other establishments, there are no prices listed on the menu. Instead, in order to dine there, you could either make a donation of about $10 or more, or you can volunteer.
An hour of work cooking, washing dishes, busing tables, or waitressing earns anyone a three-course meal. The community restaurant also offers customers a "Pay It Forward Program where each additional $20 donation provides meals for those who are unable to donate," according to the official website, JBJ Soul Kitchen.
When asked what the inspiration for such an idea was, he told The Daily Beast back when JBJ Soul Kitchen first opened, “One in six people in America are suffering at night and going to bed hungry, and one in five families live at or below the poverty line.”
“What this restaurant is truly meant to do is empower. You don’t come in here with a sense of entitlement. You come in here and volunteer because we need your help.” And Jon Bon Jovi wanted to take this same mission and spread it. In a 2016 report by Billboard, he and Dorothea introduced a second Soul Kitchen in Toms River in New Jersey.
Speaking to guests at a press conference, the singer said, "This location being even larger, we are going to have an even greater impact on the community of Toms River. Our mission has always been to affect positive change and address the issues of hunger and homelessness. We are expanding our mission with a network of partners and resources to meet the needs of the community of Toms River."
According to the foundation's website, the JBJ Soul Kitchens have served a total of 105,893 meals, at the time of this publication. Of that, 48% of it was paid forward through volunteering while the remaining 54% were paid for with donations.
But one shouldn't be fooled into thinking that the food served at these kitchens is anything less than the best. The singer ensures that whoever walks through those doors are served food of high quality. "JBJ Soul Kitchen serves a 3-course meal based on American Regional cuisine, beginning with the option of a soup or salad. Each guest also has the choice of an entrée such as a fish, meat, or vegetarian selection. The meal is finished with a freshly made dessert. Our chefs prepare many of the dishes with natural, locally sourced ingredients from our garden or the JBJ Soul Kitchen Farm," says the website.
However, the JBJ Soul Kitchen isn't only aimed at helping families during times of economic despair. When explaining the mission to CNN, Jon Bon Jovi mentioned that his strategy is to help "one soul at a time." Adding to that, he said, "I thought 'how can we bring people together in an affordable, accessible way?'" His answer came when he saw a man sleeping on a grate in the dead of winter during a harsh Northeast winter night - the homeless. "Right there it all crystallized for me. It didn't matter if you were young, old, black or white, Republican or Democrat... this was an issue that could affect anyone."
On the path to making a difference, he has been instrumental in providing more than 500 affordable homes to those in need across 10 states through his foundation. Most Americans live two paychecks away from problems, and I thought this is something we can do. And most importantly I didn't need the scientists to find the cure," he explained to the news outlet.
When asked about the future of his community restaurants, he said, "Now the question is 'do we want to open two or three or 10... or do we go really big?' Well, we will definitely see growth. The question is incremental. The key to our success is empowering the individual."