The Master’s Workshop provides hope for children


Janet Marks is the founder of The Master’s Workshop.

Since 1998, The Master’s Workshop, a nonprofit organization, has provided after-school activities and meals for children in the south Melbourne neighborhood. 

During the coronavirus pandemic when residents isolated at home, The Master’s Workshop organized home delivery and had food available for pickup by parents.

The Master’s Workshop mission is “to provide a safe, loving  and caring place for at-risk children to help them to develop into whole individuals using Biblical principles,” said Janet Marks, the founder and coordinator.

To accomplish its mission, The Master’s Workshop relies on volunteers, one of whom is Lucy Dragon, a mom who homeschools her three children. As a volunteer for the past eight years, Dragon teaches reading, crafts, helps with homework, serves meals and performs routine errands. 

She is certain, however, that her personal usefulness is being a positive, consistent role model for the children, in accordance with her religious beliefs. 

“Sometimes, the best thing is to just show up and listen to them,”  Dragon said. 

Marks, a former teacher, believes she was called to do this work.  One Sunday after church, she went for a walk in the south Melbourne neighborhood location of a recent disturbance that was described as a riot. 

“My heart was crushed; and change has to come from the heart,” she said.

While walking in the park, she was approached by a little girl whom Marks perceived was in need of parental guidance. Marks had an encouraging conversation with the little girl that was seminal in the founding of The Master’s Workshop.

Marks credits the community of churches, other nonprofit organizations, individuals — friends and strangers — who donated services and funds to get her started. Sustaining support from donors, for which she is extremely grateful, allows her to serve up to 40 children, ages 5 to 15, a majority of whom identify as African-Americans.

Marks, a Jamaican immigrant who relocated from New York, reflects that at age 75, and in light of the George Floyd murder, she maintains hope.

 “Most disconcerting thing that’s really pressing me down, I see the picture of the knee on the neck and I sometimes envision all of my boys being one of those,’’ Marks said. “That bothers me so much. From time to time, we do talk about it and I always try to let them know, you boys matter. Just hold up your head, and do the right things.”

The Master’s Workshop, which operates on donations only, is located at 2525 Lipscomb St. in Melbourne. It is open from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.