Tampa Restaurant Owner Plans Thousands Of Free Thanksgiving Meals
A Tampa restaurateur is trying to ensure that no one in Tampa Bay goes without a place to have a Thanksgiving meal.
Ergin Tek, owner of Gengiz Khan Mediterranean Grill, made headlines earlier this year when he turned his restaurant on Bay to Bay Boulevard into a shelter during Hurricane Irma.
Now, Tek has an even more ambitious aim.
"We're looking to feed 30,000 people," he said. "Hopefully we will do more, but this is the goal."
The back corner of Gengiz Khan has been transformed this week into the makeshift headquarters of Feed In Need, Tek's non-profit organization. Volunteers on laptops or working the phones try to confirm locations for food service and solicit donations.
Tek said he began donating food to those in need when he started his first business 14 years ago. This year, he's already provided 11,000 meals to various charities.
After running out of his own money, he turned his charity work into a non-profit so he could collect donations from the community.
"Little did I know a lot of people would join me on this," Tek said.
Corporate partners such as Walmart and Sam's Club have already committed money to help Tek realize his goal of 30,000 meals served. He has also partnered with community centers, churches, mosques and synagogues to serve the meals.
Building inter-faith relationships and connecting people in need from every part of the Tampa Bay area has been a big motivator for Tek's giving.
"We do not want to skip on anyone," he said. "Every color, culture, race, everyone is welcome equally. This is a day of peace and I'd like everyone to join."