Each week over the next several weeks, we will introduce you to our Grunin Foundation Board members. This week's Behind the Board feature is Ed Johnson, Executive Director, Governmental Affairs and Community Relations at Brookdale Community CollegeThank you to Ed for taking the time to talk with us!

1. What made you want to serve on the Grunin Foundation board?
It all started with a meeting with Heather and Jeremy. Getting to know everyone at the Foundation and how they work with the community made me want to learn more. I saw how they identified projects, people and organizations to fund and how they assist with resources. Their reach is felt throughout entire communities. They believe “a rising tide lifts all boats” and you can see how the work they do is connected to lifting others.

2. The Grunin Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for all members of our community by using philanthropy to drive economic excellence at the Central Jersey Shore. What does economic excellence mean to you?
Thinking especially about the Central Jersey Shore, to me it means involvement, support and promotion of the small business community which is the backbone of the mainstream business community. Promoting these businesses helps the entire economy – social services organizations, nonprofits, community organizations. Everyone working together to support community members creates an economic cycle where each entity lifts the other, ultimately producing connectivity, wellness, economic prosperity and wellbeing.

3. Of our grantmaking pillars (arts, education, healthcare) which are you most passionate about and why?
All of the grantmaking pillars are important and connected, but education is and has always been passion. I come from a family where education was extremely important. The grandparents of my grandparents were born into slavery. The importance of education has been part of our family story as passed from one generation to the next. My parents and grandparents were the first members of the family to move past high school and encourage us to successfully complete bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and law degrees.

Education always played a key role in my family as a means to improve oneself and the next generation. It is also a responsibility we have in terms of helping others and being active members of our community. Education is a passport to everything.

4. We strive to ensure that all our partners are committed to advancing equity. How do you (or how does your organization) work to advance equity in the community?
Equity is an important part of the Brookdale Community College (BCC) mission and philosophy. Community is our middle name so everything we do is to advance equity in the community. BCC brought on a Director of Diversity and Inclusion this year to ensure that we are truly looking at everything we do in terms of equity from outreach and recruitment to retention and moving people on to next segment of their careers. BCC is actively involved in the community to make sure our programs are equitably accessible. Monmouth County is extremely diverse with 54 municipalities. BCC serves every one of them and plays an important role in providing opportunities and ensuring equitable access to those opportunities.

5. What is your favorite part of the Central Jersey Shore and why?
The shore! Most notably for me are the City of Asbury Park and the Asbury Park Beach and boardwalk. I grew up in South Jersey and would drive to Asbury Park and spend all day at beach. I even got caught playing hooky once because my mom found sand in my shoes. Whether it was an unscheduled day at the beach or a field trip for science class – I’ll never tell!

I’ve always enjoyed the Central Jersey Shore. I love the towns and the people. You can get a different experience with each neighboring town. Asbury Park is the best of both worlds with the look and feel of a city and the beach/shore. If you go to Red Bank, you can have a completely different experience from Asbury Park or Long Branch. They are all equally great but very distinct experiences and that is the beauty of the Central Jersey Shore.