Family-run kitchen celebrates 45 yearsWritten by Matt Liasse | | email@example.com
When Harvey Savage Jr. and his father opened the Martin Luther King Kitchen for the Poor, he didn’t exactly foresee it’d one day celebrate its 45th anniversary.
“We’ve survived the 45 years,” said Savage Jr., the kitchen’s executive director. “It feels surreal because when I think about it. I remember when it started; it seems like it was a short time ago.”
The MLK Kitchen, 650 Vance St., opened in April 1969. It will celebrate its 45th anniversary on April 26 with a “Sapphire Soiree.” The event is open to the public and will feature a silent auction and music by Tantric Soul.
“There [are] not a lot of organizations, let alone nonprofit organizations, that stay around for that long, especially in this day and age, when there’s a need. We have great community support that keeps us around,” Executive Board Chair Erica Parrish said.
Parrish added that it’s been “phenomenal” to be part of the MLK Kitchen.
“Just to have that access and the opportunity to make an impact in the community where it’s needed, it’s been a wonderful, rewarding experience,” she said.
The kitchen currently serves about 200 people daily, some living in nearby housing units and others who are homeless. In addition to meals, the kitchen distributes boxes with enough food to feed a family three meals a day for three days as well.
The facility has been a family affair of sorts; children of the late Harvey Savage Sr. have dedicated their lives to the kitchen. Savage Sr. died in 2000 and former executive director and daughter Jaunita Savage Person died in 2011.
Savage Jr. thinks of his work as fulfilling his father’s legacy. He intended on retiring before taking over the kitchen from his sister.
“It’s almost like it was my destiny,” he said. “It’s kind of out of my hands. It just kind of happened. All of a sudden, I’m here.”
Savage Jr. said he’s met many people while working at the Kitchen. He said helping the less fortunate is the most rewarding part of his job. One person he used to feed is now a local principal and another is working on his Ph.D.
“We’ve seen success stories,” he said. “What I have continued to see is generation after generation come through in 45 years. We may have fed your mother and father, and now we’re feeding you and your kids. I’ve seen that happen and at one time I got a little depressed about that. My friend talked to me and said, ‘Look. Things that have saved my life are places like the kitchen.’ … it encouraged me to go on.”
The main goal of the facility is not to judge, but to show compassion instead.
“We have a tendency to get judgmental when people are down. We want to be able to treat people with dignity and give them the love that they deserve,” he said.
Savage Sr. would be proud of the kitchen’s success, Savage Jr. said, and would want the family to continue on being who he helped them become.
“He’s always taught us that we should always look out for the less fortunate,” he said.
Savage Jr. sees himself working at the kitchen for many years to come. His sister once would joke that the family doesn’t quit, they “die out.”
Tickets to the event are $30 in advance and $40 at the door. For more information, call and schedule a tour at (419) 241-2596 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone can donate to the shelter through PayPal on the website, www.kitchenforthepoor.org, as well.