Chicagoans You Should Know: The Michael Airhart Experience
Written by Marshelle Sanders for Chicago Defender. Check out the original article here
Michael Airhart’s Journey
What started as a very unconventional way of life turned into a blessing. At a young age, Michael Airhart realized this his purpose here on earth was to help the less fortunate.
From the late 1970s to the ‘80s, majority of the African-American Chicago Housing Authority community faced social inequities with minor resources. This led to most people struggling to not fall prey to gangs, drug dealing and drug addiction. Michael, who grew up in the Altgeld Gardens Project in Chicago, actually did fall prey. The lifestyle wasn’t necessarily for him, but he did it to survive and because all his friends were doing it at the time.
His participation in the gang and drug-dealing lifestyle early on in life eventually served a more significant purpose.
“They would have different cars and beautiful possessions and seeing that lifestyle interested me to be a part of it. One thing led to another, and while out there in the midst of hustling, I would pray and ask God to make way for me to serve him. I always knew that he wanted me to do more and I used to avoid it, but I still would continue to do things out in the community,” said Airhart.
While Michael was involved in the street life, he would give coats, clothes and meals to affiliated gang member’s families or anyone that asked for help.
“That irony was like, ‘Wow you’re selling drugs then turn around and take care of us; what are you in this for?’ What got me was when I was like, ‘I can’t sell drugs to my friends and family.’ People were going to buy the drugs whether I give it to them or not. Even though it was wrong, I would turn around and do something right with it. I wanted to make sure that the families had the clothes and food to eat, and they won’t have to do nothing crazy out there in the streets,” he said.
As decades progressed, Michael would manage to invest in the disadvantaged so that they could do something constructive despite their circumstances.
Taste for the Homeless
Michael’s foundation, All Kids Matter, gives families a chance to receive coats, backpacks, mentorship and job opportunities, and more.
The idea for the Taste for the Homeless event began years ago when Michael encountered homeless people seeking food from a food booth. They asked the man at the booth for food, but instead they were threatened and turned away.
“The man in the booth told him to get away from the area before [they] called the police and have [him] arrested. I looked at the dude like, ‘Why would you not just give him a slice of pizza or something to eat? Because you’re going to throw this food away anyway.’ So that’s when the Lord put on my heart Taste for the Homeless.”
From that day forward, Michael worked in silence. When everything was set in motion, he shared the flyer and it went viral. He stated that God put another message on his heart, which was to reach out to Chance the Rapper.
Partnership with Social Works Chi
Airhart said, “One evening the Lord put it on my heart to get up and message Chance on twitter. I told him what I was trying to do with the Taste for the Homeless – that I’ve been serving homeless every day; I’ve been doing it on my own with my wife assisting me. When I told him everything, he messaged me right back and said, ‘How can I get down? I want in.’ I thought it was a joke at first. He asked for my number and called me the next morning.”
Chance assured Michael that he and his team at Social Works Chi would take care of his vision. The Taste for the Homeless event began last year on June 23.
Coming Up This Year
In the coming months, Michael will have another Taste for the Homeless event located at Dalton Park, 721 Engle St, Dolton, Illinois. It will take place in June in with a special surprise for the homeless. There will be a Winter Fest later this year located at Kroc Center, 1250 W 119th Street; he will launch a homeless food truck and on June 22 travel around Chicago will commence. They will provide food, hygiene care, clothes and more for free.
If you would like to donate, volunteer or receive more information on Taste for The Homeless, email Michael at email@example.com or call 708-639-8765.