My Brother’s Keeper has come a long way since its start in the early 1980s. What started as a space that provided coffee and a small soup kitchen for those in need, has grown into a staple in the Irvington community of Baltimore – providing a wide range of social services, meal programs, and further help and resources to those in need. The J.P. Blase Cooke Center is MBK’s current home. You may be wondering, who is J.P. Blase Cooke? We’re here to fill you in.
Who is J.P. Blase Cooke?
Blase Cooke was born and raised in the Irvington community. He was the oldest of five siblings and was forced to take on additional responsibility as a result of his father’s sudden passing from a heart attack when he was only 12 years of age. After graduating from St. Joseph Monastery grade school he attended Mt. St. Joseph High School but decided to leave after his freshman year because he realized there just wasn’t enough money to support his education and that of his other siblings who would soon be going to high school as well. Instead of playing sports in high school Blase focused on helping his mom, Phyllis, care for his younger siblings and took a series of jobs during his teenage years to assist with the family’s expenses.
Not long after he graduated from Edmonson High School he was drafted and served two years in the U.S. Army. When he returned to Irvington in 1968 he began work as a laborer for Thomas P. Harkins, Inc., earning only $3 an hour at 21 years of age. Blase’s hard work and dedication over the next 25 years would eventually earn him the role of CEO and owner of Harkins Builders. Blase’s motivation to excel in life was born from a simple thought, “I didn’t want my family growing up eating mustard sandwiches.” As it turns out, he didn’t want that fate for other Irvington families either.
Blase Cooke’s Contribution to MBK?
As MBK’s mission to revitalize the Irvington community continued to expand, a new board was formed to meet the needs of the ever-growing ministry of MBK and help provide necessary resources. When Blase learned that MBK needed help transforming the old neighborhood he was so fond of, he was ready to help.
In early 2005 Blase was approached by two close friends asking if would help in raising money to build the new 4,500 sq. ft. MBK facility. He immediately agreed, in spite of the fact that he had been fighting carcinoid cancer for the past 3½ years and had just recently endured yet another round of chemotherapy. Why? Blase never forgot his Irvington roots, never forgot where he came from, and never forgot the sacrifices his parents made for their family. In fact, he quickly found out that there were countless other families and friends who also grew up in Irvington in the ‘50’s and 60’s who felt the same way.
On April 27, 2005 more than 1,000 friends and family gathered at a gala dinner to honor Blase and to support the MBK building project. That one evening alone raised almost $600,000.00.
Thus, the J.P. Blase Cooke center was born. The center now houses a fully equipped kitchen and dining area for our meal program, has offices for expanded staff members, access to computers, space for support group meetings, and a small health suite. Blase is no longer with us physically, but his generosity and commitment to the less fortunate and his undying spirit has made it possible for MBK to better serve the community he knew and loved for years to come.
Talk to My Brother’s Keeper About Helping in Baltimore
To learn more about how to help or to find out more about our services including addiction treatment referrals, prescription assistance, hot meal programs, employment assistance, health services and identifying possible emergency shelter, call MBK today at 410-644-3194.