In Review: The Giving Year

The Count Basie Center’s nonprofit recognition initiative with Bank of America
has given nearly $100,000 to area nonprofits

The Giving YearAs the Count Basie Center crawled from the prolonged, pandemic-fueled shutdown, one thing was clear:

The community had kept it going.

“We did everything to survive,” said Count Basie Center President and CEO, Adam Philipson. “We held drive-in concerts and created two outdoor event venues, we moved classes online, we initiated an ‘SOS’ fundraising drive… we even sold t-shirts inspired by Bruce Springsteen.”

The t-shirt – which raised about $60,000 – featured a quote from The Boss’ SiriusXM radio program, in which he inspiringly pledged that someday, audiences would be able to gather again.

And they have.

As 2022 marched forward and crowds returned to fill the historic Basie, the organization decided to give back.

“Through our own survival, we recognized that other organizations didn’t have our platform or visibility,” Philipson said. “Yet the work they were doing – like the work we do in promoting arts education, inclusivity and diversity – was no less vital to the strength of our community.”

Enter THE GIVING YEAR. Announced in November 2022 on Giving Tuesday, THE GIVING YEAR was a nonprofit recognition initiative between the Basie Center and longtime supporter, Bank of America (BofA). The organizations announced that $1 from every ticket sold in 2023 would be donated to area nonprofits, and each nonprofit would receive increased visibility through the Basie Center’s social media and other publicity platforms.

The Basie Center and BofA committed to recognizing twelve organizations – one per month.

In all, Basie Center patrons helped raise $180,000 for twelve area nonprofits, including Shore House in Long Branch, Asbury Park’s Inspire Life, The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide in Freehold, The Sandy Hook Foundation, No Limits Café in Middletown, LGBTQ+ resource group QSpot in Asbury Park, Freehold Area Open Door, Project Write Now and others. .

THE GIVING YEAR is a true testament to New Jerseyans supporting their community,” said Alberto Garofalo, President, Bank of America New Jersey. “Bank of America stands committed to supporting organizations who make meaningful impacts in our communities and driving responsible growth through thoughtful partnerships with local nonprofits.”

“The Count Basie Center is a unique nonprofit organization,” Basie Center Board Chairperson Jeremy Grunin explained. “In addition to our work in arts education, 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.”

Count Basie Center and Bank of America officials present a $15,000 check to Shore House.SHORE HOUSE KICKS OFF THE GIVING YEAR

The Basie Center and BofA kicked off THE GIVING YEAR by recognizing the work of mental wellness nonprofit Shore House. Founded in 2010, Shore House’s mission is to empower and restore hope, independence and self-worth for people living with a mental illness. Shore House is the sole New Jersey organization accredited by Clubhouse International, which advocates for work, wellness and socialization opportunities for those living with mental illness.

“We are honored and thankful to be selected by the Count Basie Center and Bank of America for this support through THE GIVING YEAR campaign,” said Peder Hagberg, President, Shore House Board of Trustees. “Shore House relies on the support of community partners like the Basie Center and Bank of America to allow us to continue to be a vital community resource. We are proud to share this partnership in support of people living with mental illness.”

Watch more about THE GIVING YEAR and Shore House

Count Basie Center and Bank of America officials present a $15,000 check to Inspire Life

In February, Asbury Park youth and family empowerment organization Inspire Life was recognized. “We are tremendously excited and grateful to be a recipient of the Count Basie Center’s GIVING YEAR,” said founder Dr. Semaj 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, Vanzant and his wife, Carla, 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.”

Watch more about THE GIVING YEAR and Inspire Life

Count Basie Center and Bank of America officials recognize the Society For The Prevention Of Teen Suicide during THE GIVING YEAR initiativeRAISING VISIBILITY IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TEEN SUICIDE

In March, $15,000 was raised for the Freehold-based Society For The Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS). Founded in 2005 by two friends who lost teen children to suicide, the organization’s mission of awareness, saving lives and reducing the stigma of suicide has become more important than ever, as the prevalence of teen suicide in the post-pandemic era has skyrocketed.

“This opportunity to put a ‘spotlight’ on youth and teen mental health and suicide prevention will make a direct impact on our youth and their families,” said SPTS Executive Director Dawn Doherty. One such way the SPTS raises awareness is through its Lifelines Trilogy program, which sets foundations for a school’s competence in youth prevention by providing guidelines for administrative policies and protocols, professional development for administration and staff, resources for parents and an evidence-based curriculum for middle and high school students.

Watch more about THE GIVING YEAR and the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

     Count Basie Center and Bank of America officials present The Sandy Hook Foundation with a $15,000 check as part of THE GIVING YEAR initiative

The Basie Center and BofA celebrated Earth Day by choosing The Sandy Hook Foundation as its April beneficiary. Founded in 1989, the nonprofit has funded cultural, educational, environmental and conservation programs and has helped restore and preserve historic structures of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse and Fort Hancock — both National Historic Landmarks.

“Sandy Hook is a national treasure, an unpolished gem right here in our community’s backyard,” said Peter S. Izzo, President, Sandy Hook Foundation Board of Trustees. “The Sandy Hook Foundation works to protect and preserve the park’s natural and cultural assets and enhance the visitor experience through expanded and ongoing public programs and projects inside the park.”

“This recognition from the Count Basie Center and Bank of America during THE GIVING YEAR will give us the opportunity to directly create a bigger impact at the park this year, and in years to come,” Izzo added. “We are deeply appreciative of the support.”

Watch more about THE GIVING YEAR and The Sandy Hook Foundation

Count Basie Center and Bank of America officials present No Limits Cafe with a $15,000 check as part of The Giving YearNO LIMITS WHATSOEVER

May’s recipient during THE GIVING YEAR was No Limits Café, the Red Bank-area lunch spot which employs, trains and empowers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Founded in 2019, No Limits Café provides jobs and job training to adults with IDD to help them lead fulfilling lives and to increase public awareness of their potential.

No Limits Café serves lunch six days a week, with its workers involved in every aspect of the restaurant’s operations – from the kitchen to the front of house. The organization recently launched a second phase in its nonprofit endeavor – a paid, 10-week training program to help additional adults with IDD find meaningful employment in the restaurant industry.

We’re so excited to have been selected by the Count Basie Center and Bank of America as a beneficiary during THE GIVING YEAR,” said No Limits Café founder Stephanie Cartier. “This partnership will help fund No Limits Cafe’s programs, and most importantly, raise awareness that the need and result of providing employment opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities is priceless.”

Watch more about THE GIVING YEAR and No Limits Cafe

Count Basie Center and Bank of America officials present a $15,000 check to QSpot as part of THE GIVING YEAR initiative

In June, BofA and the Basie Center recognized the work of LGBTQIA+ resource organization Q Spot.

Founded in Asbury Park in 2005, QSpot fosters the health, well-being and pride of NJ’s LGBT and allied community by providing resources, referrals, education and outreach. The organization’s LGBT Community Center is a gathering spot for NJ’s LGBT and allied community, a place where individuals, groups and families can go to be social, have fun, find support and grow. As the only LGBT community center serving the region, the organization also provides education, advocacy and support for LGBT youth, seniors, parents and families of LGBT persons, mental health counseling, 12-step recovery groups and more.

“Over 250 people each week rely on QSpot for vital support, services and social engagement,” said John Mikytuck, QSpot Executive Director. “Ensuring QSpot is always available for those in need is at the top of our priorities. We simply could not do that without on-going support from our community and business partners like the Count Basie Center for the Arts and Bank of America, and we are incredibly grateful for it.”

Watch more about THE GIVING YEAR and QSpot


The Basie Center and Bank of America present a check to the Ritesh Shah Charitable Pharmacy as part of The Giving Year initiative. A CHARITABLE EFFORT

In July, Red Bank’s Ritesh Shah Charitable Pharmacy became the seventh organization to be recognized during THE GIVING YEAR.

Founded in Red Bank in 2022, Ritesh Shah Charitable Pharmacy’s mission is to reduce clinical and social health inequities by increasing access to medications, immunizations, health education, and pharmacy services for uninsured and underserved patients. The pharmacy focuses on uninsured families and individuals living at or below 300% of the federal poverty level and offers its clients guidance on area free clinics, as well as counseling on their medications.

“The support and recognition from the Count Basie Center and Bank of America reaffirm the importance of our mission,” said Asha & Ritesh Shah, RPh, Founder/Trustees of the Ritesh Shah Charitable Pharmacy. “This exposure will raise awareness about the critical role of accessible healthcare and inspire others to join us in our mission. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the well-being of our community members and empower them to lead healthier lives.”

Watch more about The Giving Year and the Ritesh Shah Charitable Pharmacy



Project Write Now, the Basie Center and Bank of America pose for a check presentation as part of The Giving Year initiative.WRITE NOW!

In August, the Basie Center and Bank of America chose Red Bank’s Project Write Now as that month’s recipient in The Giving Year.

Founded in 2014, Project Write Now transforms individuals, organizations, and communities through writing, providing a wide range of fee-based virtual classes, editorial services, and literary events. At the heart of Project Write Now’s mission is its community outreach programs for underserved groups, which help youth and adults develop the writing and communication skills needed to build resilience, pursue personal growth, and achieve academic or professional success. These programs include weekly expressive writing workshops for 7th and 8th graders at Red Bank Middle School and bi-monthly workshops for members of Shore House, the mental health nonprofit which was the first recipient in The Giving Year initiative last January.

Watch more about THE GIVING YEAR and Project Write Now.




The Foundation for the Red Bank Library received $1 from every Count Basie Center ticket sold in September – funding which was earmarked for the library’s crucial Hispanic community outreach programs.

Red Bank Public Library “The Red Bank Public Library and the Foundation are thrilled to be selected as a recipient of this funding,” said Eleni Glykis, Director, Red Bank Library. “This grant allows us to acquire software and a tutor for Spanish Language GED preparation, giving all residents the opportunity to obtain the high school diploma that is such an important stepping-stone to meaningful employment and higher levels of education.”

“The Foundation for the Red Bank Library is working to break down barriers and create educational opportunities for Spanish speaking members of the Red Bank community by establishing a Spanish language GED program,” said Alberto Garofalo, President, Bank of America New Jersey. “We applaud the library for being trailblazers in this initiative and BofA hopes to help this program expand access to all Hispanic-Latino community members for years to come.”

“Libraries remain an important fixture in the fabric of our communities,” said Jeremy Grunin, Chairperson, Count Basie Center for the Arts. “In Red Bank and other Monmouth and Ocean County communities, libraries have evolved into centers of service for populations that may otherwise lack resources, like a multilingual GED program or services and programming for its ESL clients.”

Watch more about The Giving Year and Red Bank Public Library



Parker Family Health Center Check PresentationIn October, $1 from every Basie Center ticket sold was donated to Red Bank’s Parker Family Health Center. The mission of the Parker Family Health Center is to operate a free health care clinic where Monmouth County residents without health insurance, or the means to pay for medical care, can be treated with dignity and compassion. The nonprofit, which has been active in the community for more than two decades, follows in the footsteps of the Parker Family legacy. Back in 1919, Dr. James Parker, Sr. cared for patients in their homes because local hospitals would not accept Black doctors on their staffs. Following in his father’s footsteps after retirement, Dr. James Parker, Jr. established a medical practice open to all. He took care of generations of Red Bank residents regardless of their background or ability to pay.

“Parker Family Health Center is so grateful to the Count Basie Center and Bank of America for selecting us as the October beneficiary for The Giving Year,” said Suzy Dyer, Executive Director, Parker Family Health Center. “This support helps Parker continue to provide care for the underserved in our community.” The donation comes at an opportune time, according to Dyer, as demand and need for the Parker Center’s services continues to grow. “Parker has seen a 30% increase in patients since this time last year,” Dyer explained. “We cannot do this work alone, and we look forward to our working together for the betterment of our community.”

Watch more about The Giving year and Parker Family Health Center



Freehold Area Open Door Check PresentationIn November, Bank of America and the Basie Center recognized Freehold Area Open Door as its 11th recipient during The Giving Year.

The mission of Freehold Area Open Door is to assist its community’s most vulnerable. With origins as a food pantry, Freehold Area Open Door expanded their services to include advocacy services and an afterschool program. This Thanksgiving, Freehold Area Open Door expects to serve over 575 families with a full holiday meal, as well as special holiday treats for its senior population.

“We are so thankful and humbled that the Count Basie Center and Bank of America have chosen Open Door as November’s recipient for The Giving Year,” said Geralyn Fraggetta-Drury, Executive Director, Freehold Area Open Door. “Generous donations like these make it possible for us to continue to serve over 3,000 households each month with grace and dignity. They allow us to provide our families with choices and give them control during a time that they may be struggling in other areas of their lives.”

“This donation will increase our ability to support our neighbors and help them discover resources that will make their lives easier,” said Victa McKenzie, President, Open Door Board of Directors. “Open Door has been committed to doing all we can to support our neighbors, and to help the discover resources that will help support them.”

Watch more about The Giving Year and Freehold Area Open Door



THE GIVING YEAR marched on in December, awarding $15,000 to Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey.A $15,000 check is presented to Caregiver Volunteers of Central New Jersey

“Our hope is that THE GIVING YEAR will not only provide financial assistance, but will spotlight the nonprofits’ impactful missions and help them gain potential new donors, advocates and clients for years to come,” said Garofalo. “We look forward to announcing the remaining recipients in the second half of 2023.”

“The opportunity we’ve had to shine a spotlight on the work of these important organizations has been a true honor for the Count Basie Center,” Chairperson Grunin said. “Giving our patrons an avenue to support these organizations financially is important, but our hope is that this initiative is also providing visibility, so that even more people can be served, and more potential donors can learn about the services these group provide right in our back yard.”

Watch more about The Giving Year and Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey