COLORADO SPRINGS — KOAA News 5 wants to celebrate the unsung heroes who selflessly serve those in need. Let us know about amazing people making a difference in our community every day by nominating them for the Jefferson Awards. The prestigious nationwide program recognizes people making extraordinary efforts to make their neighborhoods better through service.
The winner for the month of January is Abdul Nasser. He's the owner of Taste of Jerusalem Cafe on E. Bijou Street in downtown Colorado Springs. He was nominated because of a sign he posted on the front door of his restaurant. It reads "Hungry? No money. No problem. Come on in."
"When COVID started, I put that sign on the door so people could know that we are doing that," said Nasser.
There's also a message on every table in the cafe, which explains how customers can pay it forward and provide a meal for homeless people or people in need.
"We get about 10 to 15 people a day at least, of the homeless here in downtown," said Nasser.
It's a taste of hope at Taste of Jerusalem Cafe. Nasser says every month, he gives away more than 300 meals to people in need, free of charge. But feeding people a free meal isn't a new concept to him. He began giving away food 14 years ago when he opened the cafe.
"This goes back to our religion as a Muslim and our community. God is asking us, somebody is coming in and asking for food, so feed them. If you have it and can afford it, you must give it to them," said Nasser. "I encourage other restaurants, if they can do it too, that would be nice."
Despite the challenges the cafe has faced during the pandemic, he said he's able to feed others, because of others paying it forward and donating to his cause.
"I wouldn't be able to do it alone so the customer pays for somebody else, for the next one, so that kind of helps," said Nasser.
The Jefferson Award is all about recognizing people like Nasser who are making a difference. When News5 asked him about receiving the award, he said, "Thank you Colorado. Helping other people makes you really feel good inside it makes you feel happy. I was very excited that I got recognized in our community to get this award. That's really great. I really appreciate it."
Seats in the cafe are limited and reserved for customers. Those who get a meal free of charge, usually end up taking it home or to a nearby park.
Nasser said since putting the sign up he's seen a greater need in the community. He used to feed less than five people a month, and now that's grown. Although more money may be coming out of his pocket, he says he has no problem doing it if it helps feed more people.
ORIGINS OF THE JEFFERSON AWARDS
Started by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1972, The Jefferson Awards have honored the incredible spirit and unique accomplishments of over 63,000 national and local heroes. Every Jefferson Award honoree, from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Congressman John Lewis, to former Buffalo Bill Fred Jackson has inspired through their selfless public service.
Together, we will bring much-needed attention to those Coloradans who generate the ripples of good in our community.