Basie Center, Bank of America reveal Inspire Life as February’s recipient in ‘The Giving Year’



The Giving Year(RED BANK – February 7, 2023) The Count Basie Center for the Arts and Bank of America have announced the second of twelve area nonprofits to be recognized during THE GIVING YEAR, the yearlong initiative to recognize and reward organizations for their contributions to the regional community.

Youth and family empowerment nonprofit Inspire Life (  will receive $1 from every Count Basie Center ticket sold in February, along with tickets for the organization’s clientele and volunteers. Founded in 2016 by Dr. Semaj and Carla Vanzant, Inspire Life serves as a hub for creativity, learning, empowerment, and character building for youth and families in and around the Asbury Park community.

“We are tremendously excited and grateful to be a recipient of the Count Basie Giving Year,” said Dr. Vanzant, who relocated to Asbury Park in 2016 and quickly recognized a lack of summer camp opportunities in the area. With help from the local community, the Vanzants raised funds to support more than 40 students, providing them with a safe space, meals, and an expanded exposure to the arts and technology.

Ever since, Inspire Life has continued to grow, offering “gap camps” during traditional school breaks, and expanding their programs by focusing on diversity, enrichment, and affordability.

“So far, every year has gotten better,” said Dr. Vanzant. “We are thankful for Bank of America and the Count Basie Center’s decision to invest in the Inspire Life mission.”

“Investing in our youth is vital to keep our neighborhoods growing and thriving,” said Alberto Garofalo, president, Bank of America New Jersey. “Supporting Inspire Life helps ensure children and young adults in and around the Asbury Park community are provided with quality educational opportunities, affordable extracurricular activities and a safe space to learn and grow outside of their home.”

“The story of Inspire Life is similar to so many organizations founded on a recognized need,” said Jeremy Grunin, Chairperson, Count Basie Center for the Arts. “The Vanzants observed a need in Asbury Park and built Inspire Life from the ground up. Theirs is a blueprint for how community leaders can come together and create positive change, right in their own back yard.”

Bank of America and Basie Center employees and board members started reviewing applications following announcement of THE GIVING YEAR initiative on Giving Tuesday last November. THE GIVING YEAR will focus on organizations serving causes related to arts and culture, health / wellness, food insecurity, diversity, equity and inclusion, or financial management or other services to underrepresented populations.

Organizations interested in consideration for THE GIVING YEAR may learn more and apply for consideration at Organizations need only apply once – qualifying applications will be considered on a rolling basis throughout 2023.


THE GIVING YEAR will last throughout 2023, with the Count Basie Center for the Arts donating $1 from every ticket sold to one of twelve area nonprofits, with a different organization highlighted each month. Organizations will be eligible to receive up to $15,000 during their month, in addition to complimentary tickets for distribution to their volunteers and / or their beneficiaries.

Upon announcing the THE GIVING YEAR in November, Basie Center and Bank of America officers presented the initiative as an opportunity to use the organizations’ platforms to highlight important work and causes throughout their service regions. In January, mental health nonprofit Shore House was announced as the inaugural Giving Year recipient, receiving $15,000 from the Basie Center and its patrons.

“The Count Basie Center is a unique nonprofit organization,” Basie Center Board Chairperson Jeremy Grunin explained. “In addition to our work in arts education, from classrooms in under-resourced communities to professional development opportunities for teachers, we have world-renowned performing artists on our stages almost every evening. We recognize the platform that affords us, and we feel it’s right to use that platform to highlight other organizations attending to vital causes in our region.”

“Bank of America and the Count Basie Center share many causes and concerns, especially the betterment of our communities,” said Bank of America’s Garofalo. “During ‘The Giving Year,’ we’ll use our long-standing partnership and platforms to highlight and reward the efforts of twelve area nonprofit organizations, whose commitments to our region help those who need it the most.”

“Part of our responsibility as a nonprofit organization is to look inwards and say, ‘What more can we do?’” said Adam Philipson, President and CEO, Count Basie Center for the Arts. “And because we have this status as a place where world-class musicians, actors and performers come to play, we also have this opportunity – and responsibility – to lend our visibility to others. Bank of America and the Basie Center want THE GIVING YEAR to become a pedestal for organizations that deserve to have their hard work and purposes known and recognized.”

March’s beneficiary organization will be announced later this month.