The Loaves and Fishes kitchen and dining room are as busy as Santa’s workshop these days, with the elves preparing a special meal and items to distribute to people who will come on Christmas.

The program will serve a meal of a marinated chicken breast, scalloped potatoes, and cake or pie for dessert on Christmas Day. Some of those coming for the meal will also receive gift cards to purchase groceries, hats and scarves donated by the D.C. JCCs, and blankets bought with funds provided by a generous and regular volunteer (who also gave a significant amount to buy wrapping paper for them as well). On Saturday, Dec. 19, Denize Stanton-Williams, Loaves and Fishes’ director of operations, reported that in the previous week there had been many donors and volunteers coming to the program with food and other items and that the facilities had been busy with activity as preparations for Christmas were made. This included volunteers coming to wrap presents, she said.

“It’s been a fruitful end of the year for us – that we can touch so many different people,” said Stanton-Williams. “That means a lot.” She described multiple streams of giving this year to the program. “I’m just happy about that,” she added.

And there will be good news beyond Christmas for Loaves and Fishes as well: Stanton-Williams said she expects to have the food pantry up and running by the new year, which will allow the program to distribute grocery items weekly to people who come for prepared meals.

“We’re just fortunate – we’re really fortunate. I’m just happy,” said Stanton-Williams.

Bake an additional pie! Buy an additional pie!

Loaves and Fishes is accepting pie donations for its Thanksgiving meal. Pies can be delivered to the downstairs kitchen:

  • this Saturday and Sunday (November 21 and 22) until 12:30pm
  • Tuesday and Wednesday (November 24 and 25) from 4:00pm to 7:00pm

Washington, D.C. (ABC7) — A Washington, D.C., restaurant that went viral for its efforts to feed the poor and homeless is now asking the public for help.

When ABC7 did a story on Sakina Halal Grill in February 2019 – the owner, Kazi Mannan, said it changed his life.

Mannan said business was booming. The Pakistani grill saw an increase in both homeless and paying customers.

Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, he faces big troubles.

“Business was doing very well,” Mannan explained. “Before COVID-19 hit, we were feeding 70 to 80 people free meals a day.”

His mission? Feeding D.C.’s homeless and needy population from his luxury restaurant without ever asking for a penny.

In a scary turn of events, Mannan says he’s barely able to feed himself. The business has found itself struggling to survive.

“We were closed for four months during the pandemic,” Mannan said. “Each time we would re-open, we sit all day with no customers. Eventually we would just shut down and let the employees go.”

The small restaurant went from 15 to only two employees. Sakina Halal Grill is in the same position many other small businesses are in.

“Right now we are in a bad shape and unable to pay rent” Mannan said. “I am unable to pay my mortgage.”

For five years, Mannan fed thousands of people who can’t afford a meal.

Beyond the delicious flavors you find, the warm Chai Latte or fresh lemon water, you would never know that homeless people are walking in and out to experience the same thing paying customers are.

“If someone says I need a free meal, OK,” Mannan said. He doesn’t ask questions and never judges anybody. His policy has remained the same for the last five years. If you’re hungry, poor or homeless, you eat for free. In 2018, he estimates they served over 16,000 free meals.

“That mission is very close to my heart,” Mannan said with tears in his eyes. “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.”

Sakina Halal Grill, which used to feed the homeless everyday, is now struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. (Caroline Patrickis/ABC7)

With no other option, Mannan was forced to put a stop to giving away free meals because business is struggling.

I can’t feed anybody because I can’t feed myself in this situation” Mannan cried.

Mannan says he’s a person who doesn’t like to ask anything of anyone and now finds himself begging for help.

“Many restaurants are gone forever and right now it’s more important that we can continue the mission and carry the light.”

Mannan is asking for you to support his restaurant by purchasing a meal or donating.

Sakina Halal Grill set up a Gofundme which is asking for donations to help the business stay alive so he can continue feeding D.C.’s homeless.

Click here for more information.

Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington (SMGW) is holding an all-inclusive COVID-19 drive from now until September 30. It is collecting many things people in need can use now, from face masks and grocery gift cards to toiletries and toilet paper. SMGW has a comprehensive list of needed items on its website.

You may donate items that you order on Items you have or order can be brought/mail to SMGW’s NW D.C. office at 1516 Hamilton Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20011, 202-722-2280, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

As one of the founding member churches of SMGW in 1986, St. Stephen and the Incarnation (which started the Loaves and Fishes program) has been and continues to be committed to the mission of empowering its neighbors. The coronavirus crisis has disproportionately impacted our vulnerable neighbors. Responding through this campaign, called The Empower Our Neighbors in Need Campaign, is a way to help.

Loaves and Fishes recently gave a donation of $6,500 to Sanctuary DMV’s Food Justice Initiative for the purchase of food cards to give to families that are hungry. Loaves and Fishes received a thank you by email that reads, in part:

Thank you for your incredibly generous donation of $6,500 in grocery gift cards to Sanctuary DMV’s Food Justice. We are so grateful for Loaves and Fishes’ willingness to share its own resources to stand in solidarity with Black and Brown immigrant families during this time. 

The impact of your gift goes far beyond just the gift cards. Because of the size of your donation, two grocery stores, Megamart and HMart, agreed to collectively donate an extra $700 in gift cards. Both of these stores are immigrant-owned, which means your gift supports the community twice: once through the gift cards, and again by investing in a company whose owners come from the community they serve. 

In total, your gift resulted in $7,200 in groceries for 71 families with 385 adults and children. Last Saturday, families from Falls Church to Herndon to Hyattsville received a delivery of gift cards, a bag of produce from DC Central Kitchen, and a box of dairy products donated by partners at the ADAMS Center Mosque – enough to last over two weeks. 

Here are some of the messages we received from families that day:

Si tenga por seguro que nos ayuda muchísimo gracias muchas gracias y adiós y ustedes de buen corazón dios les bendiga
Rest assured that this helps us so much, thank you, thank you very much, goodbye and God bless you all of good hearts.

Muchísimas gracias dios les bendiga y proteja en todo momento
Thank you so much, may God bless you and protect you in every moment.

As you may know, Sanctuary DMV Food Justice works out of St. Stephen’s on Saturdays, so we often connect with Loaves and Fishes staff and volunteers and share extra food back and forth. In a difficult time, it gives us hope to be working with you and other organizations that have such a generous spirit and deep commitment to ensuring that all of our neighbors have access to food. Thank you for your continued partnership.