Martial-arts studio throws karate chop in hunger fight

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 08/07/2003

Maria Lanza knew the food drive at her husband’s martial-arts studio would be successful when she saw parents drop their children off for classes and come back with groceries when they picked up their children.

“People actually would go food shopping and come with the bags right from the market,” said Maria Lanza, 49.  Richard Lanza, also 49, is the owner of Lanza’s Martial Arts studio on Route 9 in Freehold Township. He said his 200 students, ranging in age from 4 to 60, already have collected 2,000 pounds of food and other necessities for the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune.

The drive, which began about Memorial Day, will continue through August. The studio has collected mostly food but also many toiletries, including toothbrushes, soap and shampoo, and other necessities, such as diapers.   ”Literally, we’ve been dropping stuff off once a week,” Richard Lanza said. “They think we’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. I thought a nice goal would be a ton. I had no conception of what 2,000 pounds is.”

He said he was prompted to help the food pantry when workers there told him donations are scarce in the summer.   ”People tend to be me more generous at holiday times,” Richard Lanza said.   He said the drive not only has helped the poor but also has taught his students the values of community service.   ”We want to teach them to be leaders, not followers,” Richard Lanza said.

Jigesh Parekh, 11, of Freehold Township said he donated 53 cans of food.   ”I wanted to help out the needy,” he said. “All I felt is how they’d feel if they get the food.”

Richard Lanza said trips he made to the food bank helped him eliminate any preconceived notions he had about who receives the donations.   ”People getting this food are no different than you and I,” he said. “They’re just having a rough time.”

Sandra Vilanova, 12, said she was happy to participate in a drive like this in a place other than school.

“We can do it anywhere,” the Howell resident said. “Sometimes people have real problems.

Mark Feldstein, 14, of Manalapan said he was eager to take part.   ”I’m (more) fortunate than other people,” he said. “I feel bad(ly) for them.”

Jesse Cermac, 9, of Howell also counts his blessings.   ”There’s a lot of hungry people out there who can’t afford anything,” he said.

For each donation, participants receive a raffle ticket. Richard Lanza said he will draw winners for four $50 and two $25 gift certificates for use at the Freehold Raceway Mall, as well as four tickets to an upcoming New York Yankees game.

Lanza’s Martial Arts, 3263 Route 9 North, is moving to an expanded location at 3681 Route 9 North in the Freehold Mall shopping center in Freehold Township.

For more information, call (732) 845-9200.

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