Detroit Community Rallies Together to Support Minority Restaurant Owners and Area’s Homeless Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Published on April 17, 2020

Win-win: Struggling local restaurants will be paid to feed nearly 100 homeless individuals with support from crowdfunding campaign.

DETROIT– In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan restaurants lost more than $490 million in sales and 72,000 jobs, forcing many to close their doors. COVID-19 has also brought unique challenges to nonprofits serving vulnerable homeless populations. Neighborhood Service Organization, for example, had to transfer nearly 100 homeless to a new facility to allow for greater social distancing but which lacked an operating kitchen.

Pay it Forward: Power a Business & Feed the Homeless is a community-driven campaign aimed at funding Detroit minority-owned restaurants to cater meals for those in need. In less than ten days, more than 360 donors across the community have raised more than $32,000 to support this effort: paying seven local restaurants to feed about 100 individuals five days a week, including homeless sheltering at Neighborhood Service Organization as well as at-risk girls and women through Alternatives for Girls.

On Monday, April 13, Detroit Pepper Company Chef and Owner Marlin Hughes delivered the first set of meals to Neighborhood Service Organization, with meal delivery to Alternatives for Girls starting this Wednesday.

For at least six weeks, the following restaurants are delivering meals to those in need:

●     Mondays: Detroit Pepper Company’s Marlin Hughes (East Warren)
●     Tuesdays: Norma G’s Lester Gouvia (Jefferson Chalmers)
●     Wednesdays: YumVillage’s Godwin Ihentuge (New Center)
●     Thursdays: T’Mo’s BBQ’s Tito Dotson (Northwest Detroit/Live6)
●     Fridays: Rincon Tropical’s Lizaida Moreno (Southwest Detroit)

Two local bakeries are also providing desserts to residents twice a week: Terri’s Cakes’ Garnet T. Gullet (Eastside) is delivering on Wednesday and Lucki’s Cheesecakes’ Rhonda Crenshaw Morris (Woodbridge/Northwest) on Friday.

“We wanted to be able to help an at-risk group and monetarily help keep local Detroit businesses operating through COVID-19 all at the same time: This does both,” YumVillage Owner and Chef Godwin Ihentuge said. “Getting this kind of support from the community really shows me how much people care about local restaurants and Detroiters. People are ordering take-out, tipping, and contributing to efforts like this, all helping me and other local businesses keep our doors open.”

“Because of the shelter-in-place order from Governor Whitmer, we are in a position where we have to meet all the basic needs of our clients,”  Neighborhood Service Organization President and CEO Linda Little said. “Food is the number one basic need. This food not only provides nutrition for those we serve, it also provides comfort. It shows those experiencing homelessness that the community cares. We are extremely grateful for this outpouring of love from the restaurants and donors.”

Five Detroit professionals launched the campaign on April 3, with the goal to raise enough money to support the homeless through the worst of the COVID-19 crisis, estimated at about $5,000 per week.

“There are a lot of efforts happening in the city to support those in need during this crisis but we wanted to prioritize black-and brown-owned businesses in Detroit neighborhoods to help make sure they’re still here when this is over,” campaign collaborator Jeremy Lewis said. “The community is really stepping up in a grassroots way to show their support – both to restaurants and those in the hardest situations.”

The group recently partnered with Soulcial Scene, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting black-owned businesses, to serve as the campaign’s nonprofit fiduciary. The organizing team also applied for and were successfully awarded two COVID-19 response mini-grants from the Desai Sethi Foundation (Detroit Community Resilience Prize) and the Schusterman Family Foundation (REALITY Micro Grant). All of the money raised from the campaign will go directly to partner local restaurants, Neighborhood Service Organization, Alternatives for Girls or other beneficiaries who may be added as the fund increases.

Donations will be accepted until May 1 on either Soulcial Scene’s donation page or the crowdfunding platform.

Organizing team contact:
Jeremy Lewis – 313.550.8038
Restaurant contact: Godwin Ihentuge – 734.585.4268
Neighborhood Service Organization contact: Sharon Maier, VP,  Corporate Development – 313.400.6439

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