Asbury Park restaurant becomes Santa’s workshop

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park looks like Santa’s workshop with hundreds of toys piled in every corner. Santa’s helpers, who are volunteers, spend hours wrapping gifts, all so children will smile on Christmas.

“For me, it’s a way for my family to come together in a really positive situation and bring a lot of cheer and comfort and joy,” said Marilyn Schlossbach, owner of Langosta Lounge.

Schlossbach lost her parents around the holidays more than 30 years ago.

“The holidays are tough for people. Whether you have family or not, sometimes it’s a very lonely time. A lot of memories, a lot of nurturing, needs to happen for people,” she said.

A few members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County got to pick two toys. Ten-year-old Quinana Johnson had hundreds to choose from. Still, it didn’t take her long to decide.

“This is my favorite holiday. I like Christmas so much. It makes me so happy,” she said.

“People care. People care about kids, their feelings, and it takes a load of the family when things are kind of rough. This is a time to come and give your thanks and love, and the kids love it,” said Quiana’s mother, Angela Johnson.

“It’s our mission to make sure, along with everyone in the community and all the resources and allies that we have, to make sure each kid gets a special and unique experience on the holidays,” said Asbury Park Unit Director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County Daniel Rivera.

Langosta Lounge worked in partnership with a local nonprofit, FEEDing Frenz, to sponsor a free Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinner at the restaurant. Every Christmas, Santa gives each child a gift during the meal.

“It’s magic. There’s nothing better. I mean, you cry looking at these kids,” said FEEDing Frenz President Pat Sherman.

The gifts are all donated. Business owner Christopher Cullen usually delivers a truckload. He runs a company donation drive. This year he dropped off about 600 toys thanks to employees, friends and others in the community.

“Knowing that it’s for the children, and the children of Asbury Park that are less fortunate than a lot of other children in a lot of other coastal towns, it was befitting. It was necessary, so we did it,” said Cullen.

It’s not just about gifts. Schlossbach says she knows the importance of having a Christmas tree because after Superstorm Sandy she was displaced and didn’t have one. So a few years later, she decided to donate trees to members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County. So far, she’s purchased and given away about 30 trees, all in an effort to spread some holiday cheer.

The giving spirit seems to be spreading. This year, Schlossbach didn’t have to buy the trees. The nursery gave them to her. This family now has a Christmas tree, and for Schlossbach, this is what the holidays are about — community members coming together to support each other.

Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multiplatform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by the JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.