Growing up in the projects on the South Side, Dr Michael Airhart never let his circumstances weigh him down. Given the name “The Black MacGyver” by his friends and neighbors, Michael found a way to create, with whatever was available to him.
Taking his creativity and love of food, Michael began cooking for his neighborhood friends.
“We would have grilled cheese sandwiches because back then you had government cheese. And so we would make literally the best grilled cheese sandwiches. Also, I tell everybody I created 'oodle noodles' and I'm going to take this with me when I leave here. I did that for a long time. I would give out bowls out my mom's back door."
Though Michael was not drawn to street life, he admits being forced to join a gang. Yet despite the lifestyle he was caught up in, he felt a calling that would eventually lead him to his future work.
“At that time, I was just like, okay, I'm going to belong to this gang here, because most of my friends started selling drugs. One thing I can say, and even to this day, even when I was selling the drugs, I felt this burn inside every time I would touch it. As I was growing up in the gang, I didn't use the drug money to buy houses or different cars.
"Say your mom is the one doing the drugs. She’d take all the food stamps over to the drug dealer. So that house, your house can’t eat. Okay. Well, I'm a friend of you and your little sisters and brothers. What I did was I sold the drugs, got the stamps back, go to the store and bought the food and gave it back to you.”
It was that same heart that prompted Michael to change his entire life and commit himself to feeding the homeless. As Michael recalls, it was a moment during “The Taste of Chicago” when a homeless man asked a vendor for food being thrown away, that touched his soul, compelling him to start “Taste for the Homeless.”
“He said, sir, can I have a slice of pizza? I don't have any money. I'm just hungry. I haven’t eaten in days. The man told him ‘no,’ you can't have any and if you don't get away from my 'effin' booth or I'm going to have you arrested.
I looked at him and said, sir, You’re throwing it away in his face. Better yet, I'll pay for it. Here are the tickets. To which he responded ‘You're not going to pay for anything and if you give, pay for his stuff, I'm going to have both of you all arrested.
I turned around and looked and he was crying already. He's hungry. I start crying. I grabbed his hands. That's when the Lord spoke to me right then and there.”
It was at that point, Michael began his mission to feed the homeless every single day. Tune in to hear his incredible, inspiring story of selfless love.