Children carry on father’s ministry at kitchenWritten by Michael Driehorst | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Many people in the Toledo community give a lot of their valuable time to help those less fortunate. But for one family, it’s been nearly a life-long commitment.
The Martin Luther King Kitchen for the Poor, 650 Vance St., Toledo, opened April 1, 1969, under the guidance of the late Rev. Harvey Savage Sr.
“I grew up in it,” said Juanita Savage Person, 55, who’s served as executive director for about 15 years.
Person, one of Rev. Savage’s daughters, said she started helping at the kitchen when she was 15 years old.
“This is all I know. It’s the only job I’ve ever had.”
Person’s brother, Harvey Savage Jr. has served as the president of the MLK Kitchen board for eight years. He also has been involved with the kitchen from a young age.
In addition to Person and Savage Jr., their sister, Henrietta Armstrong is the head cook, and their brother, Raymond Savage, is the driver. Person, Armstrong and Raymond Savage are the kitchen’s only paid employees. Another sister, Irene Campbell, volunteers.
The MLK Kitchen serves about 200 people every day. The kitchen opens Monday through Friday at 8 a.m. and serves lunch from noon until 1:30 p.m., before closing at 2 p.m. It also is open the second weekend every month, when it hosts a prayer breakfast, organized by the neighboring Lo Salem Missionary Baptist Church.
Savage Jr. said the prayer breakfast typically draws 50 men.
In addition to the daily meals, the kitchen distributes 50 to 60 food boxes every month. The boxes contain enough food to feed a family three meals a day for three days. Other services include clothing, delivering food to elderly and shut-ins, and a case worker helping clients to obtain eligible aid. The case worker is made possible through a federal grant obtained with assistance from United Way of Greater Toledo.
Savage said the type of clients the kitchen serves has expanded in recent months.
“We’ve noticed more families and more of what we’d call middle class. As jobs go, it’s getting harder and harder for everybody,” he said.
He said the case worker has been a big asset to assist those who are not familiar with the welfare system and “need help to manage through the system.”
Person said the MLK Kitchen has solid support from its volunteers and three senior citizens who each work about 18 hours a week as part of the Title V Senior Community Service Employment Program. She also said the seven-member board is “fantastic. It’s a working board that means a lot to us.”
Savage said financial support for the MLK Kitchen comes from several sources, including individual donations, fundraisers like a recent Bowl-A-Thon, FEMA grants, and community development block grants.
However, more is always needed to continue the kitchen’s efforts and deal with unexpected emergencies like when a freezer recently broke down.
In addition to funding, Savage said the kitchen is currently seeking food donations — such as turkeys to assist with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and food boxes — and toys for its annual Christmas party.
Person said she can’t see herself doing anything else.
“It’s like a ministry to us. We minister to the poor and needy,” she said. “We have a good staff, and it is through them that we’re able to carry out this ministry.”