Small acts of kindness matter too

Grecian Gyro opened its first location in Hapeville nearly 40 years ago. Here George Koulouris (left) with his father Nick Koulouris. George and his brother Pano Koulouris currently run the family business and its seven restaurants. Two locations of the restaurant opened on Thanksgiving Day, providing free meals to about 200 people in the giving-back spirit that their father instilled in them. Courtesy of George Koulouris
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Grecian Gyro opened its first location in Hapeville nearly 40 years ago. Here George Koulouris (left) with his father Nick Koulouris. George and his brother Pano Koulouris currently run the family business and its seven restaurants. Two locations of the restaurant opened on Thanksgiving Day, providing free meals to about 200 people in the giving-back spirit that their father instilled in them. Courtesy of George Koulouris

Credit: Special to the AJC

Credit: Special to the AJC

Big acts of kindness can make headlines. Remember in 2019 when billionaire Robert Smith stunned about 400 graduates of Atlanta’s Morehouse College and the world by announcing he was paying off all of the students’ college loans?

But also remember, in the same year, Inspire Atlanta wrote about the immense impact of a small deed by a retired executive from Sandy Springs.

Rich McGuinness held the door for an elderly woman at his local post office and was so stunned by her reaction that he set up the Facebook page “Unleashing Kindness. She’d told him his small gesture was “the nicest thing to happen to me in a very long time.”

The “Unleashing Kindness” page that McGuiness, now deceased, and artist Pat Fiorello created has attracted thousands of members in about 100 countries who share their belief in the value of small, daily acts of kindness

And in the second year of the pandemic, small acts of kindness continue to move hearts, as Inspire Atlanta readers recently shared.

Airport Angels

On Saturday, Nov. 17, Madeline “Maddie” Deleski of Smyrna met what she calls her “airport angels.”

Deleski had just arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from a trip to New Jersey to see her 85-year-old mother. She was quickly heading for baggage claim when she saw a 5- or 6-year-old girl and her mother moving in the same direction.

“I never met or talked to them before this,” she said. “In my travel daze, I quickly glanced at the young girl.”

The girl looked at Deleski and enthusiastically said: “I love you.”

“How did she know that I really needed to hear this?” the Smyrna woman wondered.

Deleski was very sad. It had been hard leaving her mother after a beautiful week together.

“I was so touched,” she said.

Deleski looked at the girl’s mother and said with equal exuberance: “She’s so sweet.”

The mother proudly smiled.

“She knew her precious daughter just made my day,” Deleski said. “They disappeared into the crowd as fast as they appeared.”

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Small gestures can be “everything”

Nikki Finlay of Oxford, in Newton County, is of the mindset that “we all deserve to be heroes.”

“But it’s the little acts of kindness that really matter,” she said.

Finlay is mobility-impaired and has constant hand pain so just opening a door can be a challenge.

“I’m always surprised at the number of young people who will stop and wait for me,” she said. “But I’ll never forget the 10-year-old boy who stopped and held the door for me as I was leaving a corridor.”

Finlay’s husband paid the young man the highest compliment. “Thank you, sir,” he told the boy.

“His mom was so happy,” Finlay said. “It might not be much, but people who help us, including people who get paid to do so, deserve kind words. Or maybe it’s everything.”

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Generosity flowed, so did tears

Kelly DiTullio of Cumming decided on Oct. 16 to take advantage of an offer that seemed too good to refuse: a free oil change for single parents.

“I was so excited, as I was overdue for one,” DiTullio said, adding that Christian Brothers Automotive in Cumming had even more in store for her at its annual National Service Day.

The shop offered her and other customers a free lunch – hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and plenty of sweets. The local Boy Scout troop was even there volunteering to hand-wash all of the customers’ vehicles.

But then up popped mechanic James Burns, who told DiTullio that an inspection of her vehicle uncovered a problem. DiTullio said she thought to herself, “Oh no. How bad is it? And how am I going to afford this?”

Burns had discovered that DiTullio was driving on two dry-rotted and unsafe tires. But to her great surprise, he told her, the shop was replacing her bad tires for free.

“The shock and overwhelming gratitude came over me, and tears were pouring down my face,” DiTullio said. “I am so used to carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. But, on this day, this very humble and caring organization took away my worries and replaced them with a new, positive outlook. I cannot thank the shop and its owners, Tom and Lisa Burgess, enough.”

DiTullio said she hopes to be back at Christian Brothers next year to volunteer to help at its 2022 annual National Service Day and “make a difference for more people in the community.”

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Helping hand

Ry Alford of Flowery Branch had ankle surgery this summer and wasn’t able to retrieve his own mail.

“My neighbor got my mail and put it in a bag I had on my front door,” Alford said. “Her kindness kept me ‘in touch’ for five weeks.”

***

Free Thanksgiving feast fits into family-owned business’ giving-back philosophy

About 200 people had a free feast on Thanksgiving, only they weren’t eating the holiday standards of turkey and dressing. They were dining on traditional Greek food, compliments of Grecian Gyro restaurants and owners George and Pano Koulouris.

“Our staff just loves doing this, and we invite anybody in need of a meal to come by that day,” George Koulouris said. “Sometimes, it’s people who are short on food or who are not going to be celebrating Thanksgiving. A lot of it is people who work on Thanksgiving – nurses, police officers, firefighters, and other first responders.”

The brothers run seven restaurants in metro Atlanta and kept their locations in Hapeville and Forest Park dishing out food this Thanksgiving. They started this tradition in 2017, in keeping with the philosophy of their father, Nick Koulouris, who opened the first Grecian Gyro in Hapeville in 1982 as a near penniless immigrant. Dad always stressed to his children the importance of giving back to the community, George Koulouris said.

Rickey Moore, who manages both the Hapeville and Forest Park restaurants, was only too happy help on Thanksgiving Day this year.

“I’ve always liked to give back to the community and be a part of the community,” Moore said. “And I feel fortunate to work for a company that wants to give back to the community, where a lot of businesses just want to take the money and run.”

Moore and another employee at the Forest Park location served roughly 100 people – including first responders and people experiencing homelessness.

A retired firefighter from New York drove 20 miles to be there.

“He said he thought it was the most extraordinary thing he’d ever seen,” Moore said. “It really touched a lot of people’s hearts.”

In 2020, due to the pandemic, the restaurants weren’t open on Thanksgiving. But some of the Grecian Gyros delivered free food to firehouses and other first responders. Employees also are involved in other ways in the community, including regularly walking in fundraisers for Alzheimer’s and juvenile diabetes and collecting backpacks for needy children, George Koulouris said.

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