Jon Bon Jovi, one of the world’s most successful musicians, having sold over 100 million records with his band, now spends much of his time pursuing one of his dearest passions: helping the less fortunate. Along with his wife, Dorothea, Jon established the “Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation” in New Jersey, helping to build homes for lower-income families and running a ground-breaking type of restaurant feeding those in need.
The Soul Kitchen is a “pay-what-you-can” restaurant established in a former auto body shop in central New Jersey. It provides gourmet-quality meals to the hungry while enabling them to volunteer on community projects in return for the food without the stigma of visiting a soup kitchen. Because menus never list a price, paying customers are encouraged to leave whatever amount they want in the envelopes on each table. “When I learned that one in six people in this country goes to bed hungry, I thought this was the next phase of the Foundation’s work,” Bon Jovi said.
The idea for the restaurant started several years ago while Dorothea and Jon were volunteering at the food pantry at St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church, which feeds 80 to 120 people a day. Seeing first-hand the number of people in need and how stretched the church program had become, the couple decided to renovate an old auto body shop to give it the look of a top-tier restaurant. Soul Kitchen is now one of the area’s most popular restaurants.
For those who can’t afford to pay, they can bus or wait tables. If they don’t want to work as part of the restaurant staff, they can choose to work outdoors with one of the Foundation’s home building programs. With a music career spanning four decades, Bon Jovi could easily sit back and enjoy his success. However, like a lot of baby boomers, he has chosen to devote his life to serving his community.