Lettuce Support Families with Martha Melman

Martha Melman, of Winnetka, comes by her passion for Metropolitan Family Services honestly.

She believes in the power of family and knows that a better world can be built one family at a time.

“I don’t focus on the forest, I have more of a ‘save one tree at a time’ kind of philosophy,” Melman says. “Help one family member at a time so that they are better able to help their families.”

Melman grew up on the farm in Kankakee, Ill., where her brothers still work. After graduating from the University of Illinois and moving to Chicago, she met her husband, Rich. Together they founded Lettuce Entertain You restaurants and had three children, who are now working in the family business too.

Straight brunette bangs accentuate her large brown eyes and warm smile. “We’ve been more successful than we ever dreamed possible,” she says. “In 1978 when I was pregnant with my first child, I was part of a group led by Meryl Goldblatt Cohen that started Child Abuse Prevention Services.” The program outgrew its roots and was folded into Metropolitan Family Services in 1997. Melman joined the MFS board soon thereafter. The organization now serves more than 53,000 people each year.

“The work that Metropolitan Family Services does is the best hope for the next generation,” she says. “We meet people where their needs are—education, mental health, legal aid, domestic violence. We have the capacity to wrap services around the needs of our clients.”

A favorite example, Melman recounts, is an MFS case worker who worked the phones on a bitter winter day to make sure that an elderly couple raising their great-grandchildren got their broken furnace replaced.

Melman is also particularly proud that MFS added 10,000 new families to its early childhood program last year. Providing a good foundation for young children is the best hope for their future.

Melman concludes with an invitation. If your passion is also with families, she invites you to help through Metropolitan Family Services too. Learn more by visiting their website.