Like many small businesses, Sakina Halal Grill has been hit hard by the pandemic. The high-end Pakistani-Indian restaurant has had to close several times, but even when it would reopen, business was slow, owner Kazi Mannan told WJLA last week.
In fact, business was so slow that Mannan hasn’t been able to pay rent on the restaurant, or the mortgage on his home, he said.
But Mannan and his employees aren’t the only ones who are affected.
For the last five years, Sakina Halal Grill has given away free meals to people who are homeless or in need. Mannan told WJLA that his restaurant gave away about 70 to 80 free meals every day before the pandemic.
But now that Sakina Halal Grill has been struggling financially, Mannan had to make the difficult decision to stop giving away meals for free.
“That mission is very close to my heart," Mannan told WJLA. "I don’t know how I can survive but that mission of feeding another human being who can’t afford a meal is very close to my heart.”
Until recently, Mannan had never asked for or accepted donations to pay for those free meals.
However, with few other options available, a friend suggested Mannan set up a GoFundMe page to ask for help, The Washington Post reported. He set up the page on Nov. 11.
"It was heartbreaking for me to ask the public to come out and support me," Mannan told WJLA on Monday.
Within 24 hours of creating the page, Mannan raised $100,000 from people all over the world, WJLA reported.
As of Thursday evening, the page has raised $267,164.
“I am overwhelmed,” Mannan told The Post. “People are angels, they understood my pain and came in and rescued me.”
He told the newspaper the money will go to re-hiring some of his staff and paying for monthly expenses, which are about $45,000.
“My dream is to go back to the same old ways,” Mannan told The Post. “To go back and anybody who can’t afford a meal, come in. … Now it looks like that dream is coming into reality.”