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Donations Pour In To Help Save Restaurant of Man Who Feeds Homeless Free Meals Every Work Day

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The pandemic has changed many things, but there are some things it hasn’t changed at all.

Restaurants have had to close their doors, but people still need to eat. That includes the homeless and those who can’t always swing a grocery or restaurant bill.

Kazi Mannan, owner of Sakina’s Halal Grill in Washington, D.C., knows this and has made a serious effort to feed everyone who comes through his doors, paying customer or not.

Mannan’s story went viral in the past for his simple, heartwarming policy: “If someone says, ‘I need a free meal,’ OK,” he told WJLA-TV in 2019.

“If you can’t afford a meal, come in and have a free meal,” he said. “Enjoy the same atmosphere that everybody who is paying is enjoying.”

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The Persian restaurant, just blocks from the White House, became famous not only for its delicious food and beautiful atmosphere but for the generous approach Mannan has taken in his operation. In 2018, the restaurant served about 16,000 free meals.

“We have so many that are like a regular guest,” he said, referring to the non-paying regulars. “We know them and what they want to eat. Some have teeth problems so we give them boneless chicken, tender ones. For some, the alcohol and the drugs, a lot of people have teeth problems.”

“People have fear that a lot of homeless people have mental issues, health issues, they are dirty, not clean, and if you let them come in they will ruin your business. I tell them, ‘Look at my life and look at my restaurant — does this look dirty to you?'”

His heart for the hungry goes back to when he first arrived in America with $5 to his name and built his success from the ground up.

“Once upon a time, I was in a similar situation where I didn’t have enough money to eat,” he explained. “You pass by a restaurant but never able to go in. When you don’t have money, nobody is going to let you in.”

At the time of the interview, Mannan didn’t want donations, saying, “I’m trying to worship our Creator through food.” But that was in 2019, and 2020 has been a different beast entirely.

Sadly, Sakina’s Halal Grill had to close for several months.

“We are missing to serve you again soon,” its Facebook page shared on April 14. “May God bring us together soon.”

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From there, the issues snowballed. Mannan couldn’t afford the rent and couldn’t offer free food — a fact that broke his heart.

“Right now we are in a bad shape and unable to pay rent,” he said during a desperate plea for help through WJLA on Nov. 13. “I am unable to pay my mortgage.”

A GoFundMe was set up for Sakina’s Halal Grill. People touched by the story and mission of the restaurant gave generously, and just a few days later, Mannan had happy tears.

“Few days ago when you did the story on me that how I am struggling, and I have tears of fear,” Mannan said in an update. “I have today tears of joy!”

“The thing that is hurt me is if someone can walk in — I can’t offer them food. It’s built inside of me. And someone asked me it hurt me very much and say I’m sorry I can’t help you because I myself don’t have money to buy food … Heartbreaking for me to ask public to come out and support me.”

As of Friday afternoon, the fundraiser had raised over $283,000. Mannan has promised that it will be put to good use.

“I promise you all I won’t disappoint you,” he said. “We going to do a bigger things.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking