Q&A with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries

With their annual fundraiser just around the corner and another graduating class coming out of their culinary training program, there is a lot to celebrate at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry. So we caught up with the team there to learn more about who they are and how food plays a significant role in their re-entry program.

The name only tells us a part of the story, so what is Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry?

LMM is a social service agency that’s been a part of Cleveland for 46 years.  Our founding was in response to the urban upheaval that rocked Cleveland in the late 1960s and we’ve grown to a point where we impact nearly 9,000 people each year. We serve a wide variety of individuals including at-risk teens, the elderly, individuals who are homeless, and individuals re-entering our community from incarceration. Over the last four years LMM has developed a Social Enterprise Branch that develops viable businesses designed to simultaneously provide marketable goods or services to the community and job training opportunities to individuals from the populations LMM serves.

How did the culinary training program get its start?

The first class began in October 2012, with three students at LMM’s Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside. Nine students graduated the first year. In 2013, the program moved into the new kitchen facility at LMM’s Richard Sering Center, added a job-readiness curriculum, and increased the number of program participants to 40.

Where do your students come from and where do they go with the training they get?

Our students come primarily from our re-entry program, our Men’s Homeless Shelter at 2100, and our youth programs. Additionally, we have students attending the Culinary Arts Training Program referred to us from AARP and other community partners. The students receive three months of culinary instruction in the classroom-portion of our program. Then the students move to our kitchen where they receive two months of hands-on experience in a commercial-grade facility that produces 2,000 meals every day. We are proud of our graduates who have received employment with local restaurants, hotels, and caterers such as Great Lakes Brewing Company and in fact, 15 of our students were just hired to work at Progressive Field!

Who do students cook for when they are training in the program?

The meals produced in the Central Kitchen – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – are distributed to six community locations serving people who are homeless in Cleveland.

We hear you have a downtown presence, tell us more.

LMM has a new culinary hot-spot heating up the restaurant scene in Cleveland – our own Blazing Bistro is the city’s first shipping-container-restaurant. LMM partnered with the North Coast Harbor and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance to create the restaurant, which had a soft-opening late last year. The Blazing Bistro will be in full swing in May 2015, offering a menu of new modern American classics with plenty of outdoor seating and a view of the harbor that can’t be beat.

What are people most surprised to learn about LMM?

People are surprised that LMM is everywhere. Whether it is our work through the homeless shelter, guardianship programs, or our longstanding commitment to re-entry issues, most people in Cleveland have heard about some aspect of LMM. I think what surprises people most is the diversity of our programs. LMM focuses on service and advocacy for the oppressed, forgotten, and hurting and we accomplish this work through a wide variety of excellent programs.

Your annual fundraiser, Savor, is just around the corner, so what can guests expect to experience at the event this year?

We are excited to welcome more than 325 people to our event this year!  Guests will enjoy food from many of the restaurants that will be familiar to Edible Cleveland readers including:  Spice Kitchen + Bar, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Fire Food and Drink, Rising Star Coffee, The Greenhouse Tavern, and LMM’s Blazing Bistro to name just a few. In addition to great food, guests will hear directly from LMM clients. While tickets to the event are sold out, people can still purchase raffle tickets to win one of three amazing prizes. You can also follow the action with the hashtag #lmmsavor or by following us on twitter at @LMMCleveland.

How can our readers help support your efforts?

Nothing great is accomplished alone! Visit StandInOurCorner.com to learn how anyone can get involved with LMM in a variety of ways. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@LMMCleveland), sign up for our e-newsletter, volunteer for one of our programs, attend an event, make a financial commitment to LMM, or donate in-kind items. Any and all of these things will help us continue to be a beacon of hope for those who are oppressed, forgotten, and hurting.


Photo by Karin McKenna