Generous customers at NOLA restaurant regularly purchase meals for strangers amid pandemic
NEW ORLEANS — Since the pandemic began, a slew of generous customers at a New Orleans restaurant have made a habit of purchasing a meal for themselves and an extra meal for a stranger in need.
According to WWL-TV, Shawarma On-The-Go's customers were inspired by the actions of the restaurant's owner, Abbas Alsherees.
When customers saw him offering free meals to the needy, they decided to follow his example and pay for extra meals that Alsherees could give away.
The Magazine Street middle-eastern eatery, tucked away inside of a gas station, carries out the process by leaving unclaimed receipts for free meals taped in a visible area where needy customers can see which free meals are available and ask for one. The generous customers often write a positive message on the receipts to encourage the recipients of the free meals.
Since Alsherees opened Shawarma On-The-Go four years ago, he's been regularly giving food to anyone he sees struggling to afford a meal.
"We've been doing it since I opened to anyone hungry," he said.
But when COVID-19 struck the community, customers noticed that Alsherees' business began to slow and threaten the owner's financial stability. So, they took action.
"They see it and say 'okay, let me do one more meal for another person who will come' and it started like that," Alsherees explained.
While stopping in to purchase a meal for themselves, customers began buying an extra meal for whoever needed one.
"I'll donate a gyro sandwich," one of the customers, May Wen said as she was purchasing her meal.
Wen wrote a note on the receipt, to leave a positive message for the recipient of the gyro, writing, "We'll get through this together."
Receipts like Wen's stay taped up until someone redeems them.
"New Orleans - we've always prided ourselves on our sense of community. Katrina taught us that and during COVID, we need to grab as many opportunities to let each other know that we have each others backs," Wen said.
"It's beautiful. It's people also supporting us too. They want to help us stay in business," Alsherees said.
There are no questions asked to anyone needing a meal.
"Anybody come pull a ticket, give it to us, we give them a meal without any questions," Alsherees said.
He recognizes many are struggling now more than ever.
"Friday, a lady said 'I have three people.' She called us said 'can I have three tickets?' I said 'take as many as you want, it's yours, not mine," Alsherees aid.
Alsherees takes pride in serving up delicious Middle Eastern specialties like hummus, gyro, and shawarma, but he takes just as much pride in watching his fellow members of the New Orleans community serve one another.