It started as a place to get coffee and a little help for those in need. Coffee became a meal, a storefront became a soup kitchen. As more businesses left the neighborhood, the needs became greater, and My Brother’s Keeper grew to answer the call.
Rooted in ministry and founded by and for the community, My Brother’s Keeper expanded over the years to continually engage and serve the people of Irvington. Blase Cooke and his family and friends, having such fondness for their old neighborhood, were ready to help. They provided a significant amount of seed money and funds of over $600,000 were raised at the first meeting banquet. A building site was bought at the corner of Augusta and Fredrick Road and architectural plans were made for a building that would better serve the poor while also inspiring neighborhood change.
The J.P. Blase Cooke Building
The Blase Cooke center is only a few steps from our original site, but a leap ahead in progress. The center welcomes guests with a bright, airy gathering space where hot coffee and donuts are served and fellowship is shared. It houses a fully equipped kitchen and dining area for our meal program and has offices for an expanded staff that includes our director, developer, social worker, and workforce agent. There is a small health suite, access to computers and space for support group meetings, and more.
About Blase Cooke
J.P. Blase Cooke was born and raised in the Irvington community. His father died when Blase was 12, leaving him to look after his four younger siblings. As a teenager, he took a series of jobs to help with the family’s expenses.
After two years serving in the U.S. Army as an M.P., Blase joined Thomas P. Harkins, Inc. as a laborer earning $3 an hour. He steadily rose through the company, becoming a manager in two years and a vice president less than a decade later. By 1993, he was CEO and owner. Memories of his youth provided him all the motivation he needed to excel: “I didn’t want my family growing up eating mustard sandwiches.”
Nor, Blase believed, should any other family. Blase’s commitment to the less fortunate was exceptionally generous, with his leadership guiding many charitable organizations. His hand steered commissions, directed panels, and piloted elected officials and advocacy groups toward strong partnerships. He was a devoted husband, father, and parishioner, having served on the board of his archdiocese. In every endeavor, his character, common sense, sound judgment, and willingness to strive have made him an exemplary friend, citizen, and inspiration. Truly, Blase was always his brother’s keeper and a model for all of us.