Cabbie with a heart receives national award

Monday, December 10, 2001

Jack Kitchen was dubbed "Cabbie with a Heart" when he emerged a winner in the Southeast Missourian's Random Acts of Kindness Week promotion five years ago.

At that time, Kitchen had been driving and caring for elderly and handicapped passengers seven years for Kelley Transportation Company Inc. of Cape Girardeau.

Last month, Kitchen, who is still driving a lift-equipped van cab, was honored nationally as the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association's (TLPA) Driver of the Year.

"Kitchen has been driving the paratransit vehicle for the past 12 years now," said Kim Kelley, a spokesperson for Kelley Transportation Co. "The kindness he bestows to others are just part of the job for Kitchen."

On one occasion, an elderly woman had been telling Kitchen how worried she was about her house plants. The woman, in a wheelchair, said she was unable to water the plants and feared they would wither.

Kitchen delivered the woman to her doorstep, then decided to go in and water the plants.

"Jack has a way of making all his passengers feel special," said Kelley said. "He treats them almost like they're family. You can just tell that he really cares."

Terry and Kim Kelley are owners of the Kelley Transportation Co.

Kitchen has been an employee for the Kelley group more than 25 years, working in management of a drug store and driving a cab for the Kelleys.

When the company added the Paratransit van, the late Claude "Nip" Kelley, asked Kitchen personally if he would drive the van.

Kitchen was wary. "I was afraid I'd hurt someone," he said.

But he has grown to enjoy the job.

"People with disabilities appreciate the service," Kitchen said. "You make friends with them, you learn to be calm and patient. You have to be levelheaded and don't get in too big of a hurry. You need to have a good heart and be willing to get out and help people. And a good sense of humor doesn't hurt."

Kitchen says he drives some of his passengers two or three times a week, and gets to know them.

"We talk all the time," he said.

Part of his job is making sure clients are safely deposited where they need to go. But it's more than that. Kitchen sees that his customers' coats are on or off. He reminds his clients to eat their lunches or take their medicine. He even helps schedule his cab route to help patients meet their schedule.

"I see people when they are really down and when they are really up," Kitchen said. "I get to be on a first-name basis with them. They really are like family."

Kitchen was in construction before joining Kelley to operate the former Cape Cut Rate Drug Store, at the intersection of Broadway and Sprigg (now a Subway restaurant). He later drove a cab for Kellys.

"I'd really miss what I'm doing now," said Kitchen last week.

Ronald's Golden ArchesThe opening of the 1968-vintage McDonald's Restaurant in Cape Girardeau last week brought back some memories -- 18-cent hamburgers, nickel coffee, Mustang convertibles, twin golden arches, 20-cent gas.

McDonald's had been around about 14 years at that time, and operated about 1,000 restaurants.

Today, the fast-food giant has become a powerful symbol of America, with more than 23,000 restaurants worldwide, and opening about 2,000 new ones each year.

Let's take a quick glance at some McDonald's happenings:

An estimated one of every eight Americans has worked at McDonald's.

The company annually trains more new workers than the U.S. Army.

McDonald's is the nation's largest purchaser of beef and potatoes.

McDonald's spends more money on advertising and marketing than does any other brand, much of it targeted at children.

A survey of American schoolchildren found that 96 percent could identify Ronald McDonald. The only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition is Santa Claus.

And the Golden Arches are now more widely recognized than the Christian cross.

Mogul decision on hold

Federal Mogul Corporation, an industry employing more than 400 workers at Malden, Mo., is still not saying when or if the plant will be moving to Mexico.

Company officials reported more than a month ago that the company was considering a move to Puebla, Mexico, which already hosts one Mogul operation.

The final decision was expected Dec. 1, but that date passed without further notice.

Now officials are saying, via memorandum by plant manager Dave Whaley, that "Federal-Mogul management has not made a final decision on consolidating the Malden plant into another location." The final decision is now expected early next year.

Federal Mogul, which located at Malden in 1963, has 150 manufacturing plants in 25 countries serving the automotive, industrial and small-engine markets. The company manufactures engine bearings, pistons, piston rings, gaskets, engine and transmission seals and other goods under the band names Champion, Fel-Pro, Wagner, Anco, Moog, Sealed Power and others.

B. Ray Owen is the business editor for the Southeast Missourian.

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