By David Kilby | Correspondent
Joey Hagan is no stranger to service, which is why when temperatures across the state plummeted to dangerous levels earlier this month, the Red Bank Catholic High School graduate’s first thought was helping others.
“My parents have raised me to keep those less fortunate in mind and to give back when I can; it just feels like the right thing to do,” said Hagan, who with the help of his father, donated more than half a ton of soup to the Lunch Break food pantry in Red Bank to help its clients get through the winter.
Hagan, currently a student at Villanova University outside Philadelphia, has a history with Lunch Break, dating back to the summers when he attended RBC. As a part of his academic goals, he wanted to earn his place in the National Honor Society, which he did in fact achieve. In addition to getting good grades, he required service hours. Going to school in Red Bank, he learned about Lunch Break, which provides necessities such as food and clothing to those in need.
Hagan recalled the summers he volunteered with Lunch Break. At the time, he was also on the RBC football team. “Our team had a very strict and regimented summer program with a practice or two practices daily.”
He would wake up early to get to Lunch Break around opening time at 8 a.m. and volunteer there until he needed to go to football practice around 2 or 3 p.m., walking across Red Bank to school to start his day of football training. This was his schedule for about three to four weeks over the summer.
“Since I was happy doing the work at Lunch Break, I volunteered again with slightly less intensity the following summer,” he said, adding that he volunteered because he wanted to give back to the community.
Indeed, it was that sense of service that spurred him to help out again while he was home from college during the first winter storm of 2018. Hagan’s father, Joseph, a successful businessman and investor, is the CEO of The Original Soupman, made popular after its appearance on the television show “Seinfeld.” With extra cases of soup on hand, the Hagans reached out to Lunch Break.
“In the end, I can’t take all the credit because I’ve been influenced by my parents so much,” Joey Hagan said. “It was both my Dad and I who made this donation happen.”
Hagan said his Catholic faith gives him a strong moral compass to help him live his best. During his time at Villanova University, he has been involved in other charitable events such as the “NOVADance,” an annual festival for children fighting childhood cancer. He has also participated in the regional Special Olympics, hosted by the university.
He regularly participates in Villanova University’s Days of Service events that occur throughout the year, where groups of volunteers help out with various charitable work in the greater Philadelphia area. Hagan returned from his winter break a day early to participate in Villanova’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
Hagan offers a word of advice to young Catholics who are trying to balance the academic, social and outreach aspects of life: find something you’re passionate about.
“I made some great friends at Lunch Break, and it didn’t feel like work most of the time I was there,” he said. “I would also advise that you shouldn’t be afraid to get a ‘full plate.’ You may have to sacrifice some free time, but if you value the volunteer work that you are doing, you will not regret the time you put in.”
Hagan’s father said he is proud of the way his son takes initiative in volunteer projects.
“The fact that he chose Villanova and that he continues to give back when he comes home on break by donating food and giving back makes me prouder than even the Dean’s List. He knows the more he achieves in life, the more he can give back.”
Diane Lilli, a friend of the Hagan family, said Hagan’s family has a strong belief system. “When you grow up surrounded by people who care about giving back, it’s something that is part of your childhood – it’s natural and part of what you value.”