Mark Edward Dickerson married his partner Chef Kevin after almost 40 years together. From birth to adulthood, in this interview, we learn the role adoptions have played throughout his life and how family, fostering connections, and the internet, have brought new meaning to family and building relationships.

In this podcast, Mark speaks about his adoptive mother and the lessons he learned from her as well as learning he had another family member just a few years ago. In addition, Mark takes great care to give a strong thank you to family-owned businesses that work through him and his husband’s café to feed older adults in the community during these challenging times. They are certainly a model for communities across the globe.

Q. What are the challenges facing a small business owner like you in the cafe and catering business?

The owner of the business decided to step away and gave Kevin the opportunity to come forward and take over the business, about five years ago. That is when we took over kind of as a couple and started just hit the ground running and started shaking things up over here. It’s been a lot of fun, there have been some challenges now with COVID, and now with food pricing, and things like that, but we never closed down, not one day, during the pandemic, not once.

Q. Why is feeding the community literally and figuratively so important to you?

It’s just our way of giving back, I guess, our way of giving back to the community. It makes us feel good, it has gotten quite costly, and Kevin, a lot of times he’ll look at me and I’ll say, “Well, we had quite a bit of this special that we’re doing today of baked ham, where did it all go?” And he’ll say, “Well, I had 20 outbound meals going out today,” so we have to take that into account. Those go out the door without anything really coming in, so it has gotten to be a challenge. But it’s something we continue to do, it feeds us, I think.

Q. When did you become focused on nurturing and supporting people with disabilities in the workplace?

That began about three years ago, and I noticed this group of young people, and they were coming into FiftyForward, which is where our cafe is located. They were coming in every day, and I would see them walk through the auditorium, and they were pushing a cleaning cart. I was kind of wondering what they’re doing, and they just kind of were trodding along, just kind of with their heads down. I went over and I asked the guy, I said, “What are you all doing?” He said, “We’re here cleaning, we clean the exercise equipment.” I said, “You do?” We got to talking and I said, “They look like they could about do anything.” I said, “Could they do work in our cafe or our kitchen if we had jobs that they could do?” He said, “I don’t know why not.” You just got to give them a chance, you just got to tell them how and they do it.

Q. You and chef Kevin have been longtime partners but are now married. Will you share a bit about the early days together?

Kevin and I met (at the Marriot Hotel), he was working as a chef, and I was working as a room service waiter. That’s where we met, he was serving up dishes on the line, and I would always get my food a little bit quicker than everybody else. But that’s where we met, and that’s where it started.  We’ve been together, this year will be 40 years.

That relationship led to the beginning of a family which was not an easy feat for a same-sex couple in the 1980s. Today, Mark and Kevin have two children and a third grandchild on the way.

In this inspiring podcast, Mark shares about the adoption process and the emotions through the journey of parenting including when his children recently discovered their birth mothers. This is a touching podcast you don’t want to miss about parenting, fostering, and nurturing others with great pride. Learn more about how this small business owner, and father, works to build a strong community to lift up the lives of others.