As snowflakes swirl and temperatures plummet, we are grateful for warm houses, cozy jackets, and hot meals. But many of our neighbors are not so fortunate. Two years into the pandemic, hunger and homelessness are on the rise. However, angels in our restaurant community—from food trucks to local eateries—are stepping up with acts of generosity and compassion. Here, we celebrate three such heroes.
Taste of Jerusalem Cafe
The sign in the window of Abdul Nasser’s downtown eatery reads, “Hungry? No money? No problem. Come on in.”
Since 2007, Nasser, originally from Yemen, has been serving traditional Middle Eastern food the way his parents and his grandparents had before him: fresh, made to order, and straight from his heart. His example of giving back began at home. “If anyone came to the door and was hungry, we always provided food,” Nasser says. “Our prophet Mohammed says you need to look out for others the way you look out for yourself. If you know someone is in need, you must provide for them.”
So, from the minute Nasser opened his restaurant, he served food to anyone who was hungry and couldn’t pay—free of charge. When COVID first hit, he saw an increase in people who were hungry, so he put the sign in his window. That number is growing. Now he serves about 10–15 free meals a day.
As the scent of kebabs and falafels wafts from Nasser’s tiny kitchen, he says, “We are grateful to the community for supporting our cause. People have been so generous—some buy a meal for the next hungry person, others make a monetary donation, and others come in to eat two or three times a week to support us.”
“I’m not here to be a franchise or to get rich,” Nasser says. “If I can feed my family and put a roof over my head, I am happy. And when I serve meals to people who are hungry, I love the smiles on their faces.”
We love you, too, Abdul Nasser.
Nothing’s more comforting on a blustery cold morning than one of Snooze Eatery’s super tasty, soul-warming breakfasts. From bloody marys to benedicts, Snooze serves up classics with a creative twist.
However, the Folks behind Snooze believe that breakfast should serve a higher purpose. “Giving back to the community is part of our DNA,” says Shelly Landaal, community manager. “It’s been ingrained in what we do from day one that we are responsible to try and make the world a better place.”
Last year, Snooze, a Denver-based chain with 50 restaurants in eight states, donated 1% of all sales—just over a million dollars—back to the community through monetary and in-kind donations. “We believe that feeding people is our love language,” Landaal says.
One of the company’s key partnerships is with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK). “They are doing all the hard work to feed community members that have experienced natural disasters,” Landaal says. To date, WCK has served more than 50 million fresh meals around the world in countries including Indonesia, Venezuela, and the United States.
No Kid Hungry, with its emphasis on ending childhood hunger, is another partnership that’s near and dear to Snooze’s heart. Especially during COVID, the focus on working with schools and school meal programs is critical.
Our local Colorado Springs Snoozers have also been helping the community by making “Pancake Drops” to local fire stations and hospitals, bringing steaming hot trays of sweet, mouthwatering pancakes to frontline workers. “We believe that pancakes are a vehicle to do good,” Landaal says. After all, who doesn’t love a pancake!
This commitment to making a difference is at the heart of what Snooze is all about. “And, hopefully, our guests will feel a part of it as well,” Landaal says. “Just by dining with us, you are part of the change.”
So grab your scarf and mittens and come on down to Snooze. You’ll be making an impact on the world, one pancake at a time.
Food Trucks Against Homelessness
Every Monday, from 11 am to 1 pm, a brightly colored food truck from Food Trucks Against Homelessness serves between 85 and 100 hot, delicious meals to some of our most vulnerable neighbors in the parking lot of Westside CARES at 2808 W. Colorado Ave.
This innovative program began in January 2021, at the height of the pandemic, through the enthusiastic and compassionate efforts of two area residents, Tracey Porter and Marcy Langlois. “Our mission is to feed people in need, regardless of their situation, one hot meal at a time,” Porter says. “We envision that no one goes hungry, and each person has the opportunity to become self-sufficient.”
No strangers to adversity, Porter and Langlois faced significant hurdles in their own lives. “We were fortunate to be surrounded by caring people who supported us,” Porter says. “Now that we’re financially stable, we see it as our responsibility to give back to people who need it most. Once we got over the initial shock of what was happening around us [because of the pandemic], we knew we had to make a difference for people in poverty and for local businesses.”
They approached Kristy Milligan, CEO of Westside CARES, a nonprofit that provides clothing; community nursing; and food pantry, prescription, and financial assistance for rent and utilities. The timing couldn’t have been better. “Because of COVID, we had to sunset [close] an indoor, congregant meal,” Milligan says, “and we didn’t know how we were going to provide hot food and community to our neighbors in need. These ladies have been absolute heroes. And we’re excited to partner with them.”
Since its inception, the program has served almost 4,000 meals to our neighbors in need with assistance from 12 local food trucks. In addition to food, they also offer clothing and other essential items.
Courtney, a delightful young woman wearing a tie-dyed shirt and jeans, is one of the neighbors served by the program. She used to feed the homeless until she became homeless herself. “This program means the world,” she says with tears in her eyes. “It means that, every Monday, I can come here and have something hot to eat, and being on the street, that’s hard to find. It’s a blessing to know that somebody cares, and there’s not many people inside a home that treat us with respect. They look at us like we are scum. But we find, by the grace of God, our way of surviving.”
Courtney is receiving professional coaching though Westside CARES. She hopes to become an entrepreneur and work alongside Tracey to help the homeless. “That’s all I have ever wanted,” she says.
Standing in the parking lot, watching as people chat and pick up their meals, Milligan says, “When anyone can show up irrespective of their housing status, irrespective of their income level, and get a hot meal with a smile, it means a lot to the entire community. When one of us is lifted, we are all lifted.”