MERIDEN — Organizers of the Martin Luther King Jr./Albert Owens Annual Breakfast hope donors remember the event’s dedication to local students.
The 35th annual breakfast honoring King and local civil rights leader Owens raises funds for scholarships for three to four local students every year. It’s been held annually in the Maloney High School cafeteria but concerns over the pandemic cancelled the event Monday.
“I’m feeling depressed today because we had to cancel our annual breakfast through no fault of our own,” said founder and organizer Rhudean Raye. “It means our mission to raise scholarship funds this year will be cut short.”
There will be no scholarships this year because there was no ticket sales or ad book, Raye said.
Organizers knew in December the event couldn’t be held due to state limits on building capacity and social distance challenges in the school cafeteria.
The breakfast was founded by Raye in the basement of the A.M.E Zion Church and is considered one of the state’s premiere MLK events. It typically draws regional civil rights speakers and state and federal lawmakers, and features spirtual choir music and an essay contest for local school children.
Work on the ad books begins in August, and the local schools assign the essays in November.
“All of that process did not take place,” Raye said.
A virtual program was out of the question as the breakfast relied on ticket sales and the technology was prohibitive for many people, she said. The event cost is $3,000 for the breakfast in the school cafeteria. Tickets and ad book sales help fund the scholarship.
The committee will add more scholarships next year if it raises enough money, she said.
Event organizer Michael Rohde, who is also a city councilor, is reaching out to civic groups and individual and corporate donors to get the breakfast back on track next year. The annual tribute to King has grown to a two-hour event, and “I always come away feeling very inspired by it,” Rohde said.
“Now more than ever, with racial strife and divisiveness on the rise, we need to meet the challenge for a more just society for all — a society where everyone has a fair opportunity to reach his or her full potential,” Rohde wrote in a letter to the Record-Journal.
The group is asking that contributions to the Dr. Martin King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast Fund be sent to: MLK Scholarship Program, c/o Rhudean Raye, Chairwoman, 16 Rogers Drive, Meriden, CT 06450.