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Larry Spears doesn’t cook, he doesn’t serve and he doesn’t clean at the Spears Kitchen in Dry Ridge, but he is the driving force behind getting people a good, hearty, warm meal for free five days a week.
For all of his work in Grant County, Spears was named the Grant Countian of the Year at the annual Chamber of Commerce awards banquet on April 24.
“It means a lot to me because I’ve spent a lot of my life here,” Spears said.
Spears formed the Spears Foundation to help fund the non-profit Spears Kitchen, which provides free lunches for those who stop by the kitchen, located at 11 South Main in Dry Ridge. The kitchen opened in December of 2007.
“I’ve had businesses in this community for about 45 years,” Spears said. “Everything that I have been able to achieve with great partners, I just felt that there was a need for this kitchen. I wanted to do it to give back because what I have depended on the people that live here and in the surrounding counties.”
Spears chose to start the kitchen based on a need that he saw.
“Our idea was to give a good meal five days a week,” Spears said. “With any government program, there are hoops to jump through, but here you can just walk in the door and get a meal. People can come and get one good meal per day. There is definitely a need.”
The kitchen serves an average of 35 to 40 meals a day.
Although the Spears Foundation provides 80 percent of the funding for the kitchen, the other 20 percent is made up of in-kind donations. The kitchen is supported by donations from Panera Bread, Gordon Foods, St. Elizabeth Hospital, Dry Ridge Baptist and Williamstown Baptist, along with several other supporters.
Spears may be the face of the kitchen, but he passes the credit to the employees and volunteers who keep the kitchen running, including Mary Michael Kells (the manager), Sue O’Connor, Charlene Rogers, Sandy Thornton, David Thornton, Jackie Lonkard, Mary Johnson, Benny Johnson, Lisa Kelliher, Evan Keliher and Boots Kells for the work they have put in to keep everything running smoothly.
Spears’ kindness and caring have been apparent to those who work with him, as he was nominated by friends and employees.
“Over the past two years, I have become good friends with Larry and I’ve witnessed a personal, caring side of him in his everyday life,” Ken Stone said. “I personally witnessed Larry support many other charities other than the Free Kitchen.”
“Nobody in this county can say that they do as much for the homeless or anyone down on their luck as Larry Spears can,” Chad Breeden said. “But you won’t hear him say one word about himself. He is quite humble when it comes to his charity work and his giving back to the community. The people Larry has helped are endless.”
Before Spears decided to help others, he worked in Grant County as a pharmacist.
Spears is a member of the Dry Ridge Christian Church, a member of the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department, a member of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce, Helping Hands and is a supporter for Grant County’s annual Relay for Life.