At 3 a.m. today, Ram Mehta, owner of In-Fretta, was already awake, preparing the first of the 6,000 meals. By 9 a.m., volunteers began arriving to stuff boxes with masks and food, and WellHealth, a healthcare service, was setting up its free testing site.
“This whole thing started with Ram,” says Ali Samana, one of Mehta’s friends, and a volunteer and backer of the project. “[Ram] called me and asked to do 400 meals. That became 800 meals, then 1500, then 5,000—because there’s a need.”
Even before COVID-19, Mehta had a heart for giving and would often donate meals to people in need. “I believe in giving back,” he told Dallas Observer in September 2019. “I’m a Sikh. In my religion, feeding the hungry is the best thing you can do.”
Today, at the Frisco Fieldhouse from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mehta and Samana will be joined by local imams, the Frisco mayor, and a few members of the Dallas Cowboys to hand out 6,000 meals and masks as part of the #EverybodyEatz movement. They have also partnered with WellHealth to offer as many free COVID-19 tests as they can, likely hundreds.
Frisco has been Samana’s home for many years. It’s where he spent his teenage years, where he returned after serving in the U.S. Navy, and where he launched his solar panel installation business, 1 Solar Solution. When Mehta called him with the proposition, he was eager to help. Now, more than a month after the grassroots effort began, Samana is struck by how much #EverybodyEatz has grown.
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The first iteration of the event was in early April, when Mehta gave 200 meals to the healthcare workers at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
At the last big donation day, Samana remembers huge lines the entire time they were serving and the Richardson police had blocked off the whole area.
“As business owners, we all donate money to charity and do good—but to be there, handing out food yourself, is a completely different experience,” Samana says.
Today will be their biggest event yet.
The preparation for the event takes about a week, just to collect supplies and do the necessary planning, including finding a place to host the giveaway. Frisco Fieldhouse was thrilled to host them. All of the food is prepared fresh. As for testing, this is the third time their event has been able to offer it. Samana believes it’s especially important to offer tests because of how hard they can be to access and how important they are.
Friday is a holy day in the Muslim faith. For Samana, it has been beautiful to see that when the giving starts, ethnicity, skin color, race, faith, and other differences stop mattering.
“I see Muslims there, Hindus there, Christians there. We are all there to share our blessings,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is. If you are there to help, you help. If you are there to receive, you receive.”