As Covid-19 spread across the US, people from all walks of life were hit hard. Local restaurants, which already often operate on razor-thin margins, shuttered their doors by the thousands.
For one Virginia diner, however, the pandemic gave rise to an unexpected silver lining that benefited the whole community.
As Perfectly Franks struggled to keep their head above water, loyal patrons began donating to keep the Norfolk-based fixture afloat. Through the early months of the shutdown, the restaurant survived thanks to their generosity.
When reopenings gradually brought a return to “normal,” the donations subsided, though the employees, many of them struggling college students, continued to face uncertainty.
A longtime customer sparked a change when they donated $2,000 to the restaurant, stipulating $100 go to each employee, and the rest to feeding the community. With the leftover funds, owner Tarah Morris created “Franks for Friends,” a free meal service for those in need.
“Maybe Covid hit them really hard, or they’re in between jobs — or maybe they’re taking a meal for their neighbor,” Morris told CNN. “We don’t ask any questions.”
Patrons of the diner, which serves staples like burgers, hot dogs, and homemade chili, followed the anonymous donor’s example and began ordering an extra meal to be donated along with their own. “Franks for Friends” quickly grew from a one-off gesture to a fixture — now, a prominent cork board holds dozens of slips for donated meals, which patrons can redeem at the register, no questions asked.
“I had no idea that was going to happen,” Morris enthused to the news outlet, adding: “We began collecting meals faster than we were giving them away.” On the corkboard are inspirational phrases, such as “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle,” and “Where God guides, he provides.” “It’s not even about the money. It’s about people doing nice things for somebody,” Morris continued. Franks has so many donated meals, they’ve been able to make twice-weekly drop-offs at after-school programs with the extra food.
“During the grueling changes and uncertainty of the pandemic, I reminded my staff that we can handle anything life throws at us. All we needed to do was take it one day at a time. And here we are, one year later, THRIVING,” Morris wrote on Facebook. “One year ago on this day, we closed our Dining Room and gave Curbside a try. We were scared and nervous. Today we are no longer afraid. We are happy, confident, and brave. Thank YOU for helping us get here.”
“I’m hoping it goes on forever,” Morris added to CNN. “At the rate the donations are coming in, I feel like it’ll never stop.” Morris and her team have made plans to expand their donations and partner with local groups to continue providing meals for those in need — no questions asked.Whizzco