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Extra Helping: East Lake restaurant Springreens serving free meals and more good food deeds

Jamella Jihad with her son, Muhammad Jihad, at their restaurant Springreens. COURTESY OF SHARIF HASSAN
Jamella Jihad with her son, Muhammad Jihad, at their restaurant Springreens. COURTESY OF SHARIF HASSAN

Family restaurant serves free meals throughout Ramadan, the High virtual wine auction raises $1M and more.

Springreens Community Cafe, a young restaurant in East Lake, has been serving free meals to the community, no questions asked, for nearly a month. The restaurant, which is less than two years old, has given away about 5,000 free hot meals since April 23.

Baiyina Jihad, whose mother, Jamella Jihad, and brother, Muhammad Jihad, own and operate Springreens, shared details of the promotion called Drive-Thru Iftar, which the restaurant has offered throughout Ramadan. With Eid al-Fitr approaching this weekend, Springreens is entering the final week of its free meal promotion, in which guests can visit the cafe’s drive-through to pick up freshly cooked food daily from 6-8 p.m.

Servers at Springreens, which has been serving free meals with no questions asked for nearly a month as part of its Drive Thru Iftar program. COURTESY OF SPRINGREENS
Servers at Springreens, which has been serving free meals with no questions asked for nearly a month as part of its Drive Thru Iftar program. COURTESY OF SPRINGREENS

Last year, Ramadan accounted for one of the most successful months at Springreens, Jihad said. During the month-long Islamic observance, most adult Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, breaking their fast with a celebratory meal called Iftar that is offered to worshippers and non-Muslims alike. Springreens is located next to the Atlanta Masjid of al-Islam mosque, and the nightly worship services that buoyed the restaurant in 2019 have been replaced with virtual services instead. This year, Ramadan began on March 23, just as Atlanta began to acutely feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our first question was, how can we help our community?" said Jihad. "The restaurant had slowed down. We had to cut our hours and staff, but the biggest thing was making sure that the community is being fed." To that end, her family launched the Drive Thru Iftar program, raising money through a LaunchGood site and opening doors to a wide variety of donations, from food to bottled water to cash.

Although Springreens is only open for takeout service Fridays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., it has served Drive Thru Iftar every day since Ramadan began on April 23. They haven’t run out of food on any one night yet, despite serving 500 or 600 meals some evenings. “I admire my mother’s efforts,” said Jihad. She said she worked in the kitchen for three days and was exhausted, but her mother has cooked every night.

Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan, is several days away on May 23. Jihad said that they anticipate serving 2,000 free meals as part of the holiday. Reflecting on her family’s generosity through their small cafe, she said, “It’s just been beautiful to see everything they’ve done.”

Springreens is accepting donations for its Drive Thru Iftar program on its LaunchGood page; learn more about the program and the restaurant at springreenscommunitycafe.com.

More good food deeds:

Peachtree Tents and Events, a local vendor for outdoor tenting, is holding a food drive to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The drive, which runs through May 29, has set a fundraising goal to fill 45 food barrels and raise $5,000 for the ACFB. Canned food and other shelf-stable goods can be dropped off at one of several collection points, including the Peachtree Tents and Events warehouse located on West Marietta Street, Sweetwater Brewing Co., or Valenza Italian restaurant in Brookhaven. For more information, visit the ACFB website.

The High Museum has announced that its virtual wine auction event raised more than $1 million to support its future educational programming. Though the museum described the amount as a fraction of what its leadership team expected to raise from its annual wine auction, it far exceeded the stated goal of $800,000 for the virtual version. In an email, the museum reported that 140 active bidders participated, competing for 115 lots of rare wine, art and wine-focused experiences. To learn more about the High Museum, visit high.org.

Another local bartender will be featured this week in Punch Magazine's Tip Your Bartender series. Billed as a "social initiative connecting (Punch) readers to your favorite bartenders across the country via Instagram," the live cocktail tutorial takes place daily at 5 p.m. and benefits the bar team led by the participating bartender. On May 21, Baylee Hopings from Empire State South will hop onto Punch's Instagram live stream to share a cocktail recipe. Her audience can watch and learn, and they can donate to the restaurant's staff relief fund directly through Venmo, which will be posted during the broadcast. Learn more at punchdrink.com and watch live on Instagram at @punch_drink.

Although cosmetics and food are not typical bedfellows, a local Atlanta nonprofit has received a major donation thanks to MAC Cosmetics. The makeup brand has created a $10 million campaign called Viva Glam 2020 that will distribute donations to 250 organizations around the world, including Project Open Hand Atlanta. The nonprofit provides meals to low-income, chronically-ill and elderly people. The donation comes at an opportune time, as Open Hand Atlanta cancelled its two largest fundraising events, Dining Out for Life in the spring and Party in the Kitchen in the fall. The donation from Viva Glam 2020 "will help ensure ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses, as well as senior citizens, will continue to have nutritionally balanced meals," said a representative for Open Hand Atlanta. Learn more and make a donation at openhandatlanta.org.

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