Restaurant Saved by Community Effort

Derrick Alger

In Buffalo, NY, there is a small soul food restaurant on East Ferry Street. It holds a whopping 4 stars on Yelp, and its charm comes from more than the food. Gigi’s Soul Food Restaurant is something of a landmark in Buffalo. It is a beloved, family-owned place whose charm far exceeds its rough ‘greasy spoon’ exterior. People refer to it as the perfect place to go if you’re craving some good old macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes.

Unfortunately, Gigi’s is now closed. This restaurant, which has been on East Ferry Street since the 1960s, was destroyed by a devastating kitchen fire on a quiet November morning. The damage was irreparable. The owners knew it would cost a large amount of money to rebuild the restaurant from scratch, money they just didn’t have. In short, they believed that their restaurant was gone for good.

Thankfully, the power of community saved their business. A GoFundMe page was set up online and countless donations poured in, as well as overwhelming support from the community. A large number of churches got involved as well, urging their members to donate to bring the soul food restaurant back into business. True Bethel Church, for example, managed to raise $17,000, and presented the check to the very grateful owner of Gigi’s, Blondine Harvin. She thanks God for the support of the community, and the opportunity to give her restaurant a second chance. She has owned Gigi’s restaurant for over 50 years and is grateful for the opportunity to keep going.

Now that money is coming in, plans are being made to rebuild the restaurant. Harvin admits that it will take a long time, as they need to literally start from scratch. Nothing in the restaurant was left intact after the kitchen fire gutted the building. So, Gigi’s will remain boarded up as the building is cleaned out and the restaurant is rebuilt, but Harvin is confident that it will come back stronger than ever.

You may be wondering why so many people in the community would come together to support one little restaurant. Aside from the fact that Gigi’s has been a staple in the Buffalo community for over 50 years, it has also served as a symbol to those that are familiar with it. Gigi’s main focus is its community. Its sole mission is to serve its Buffalo people, and it has effectively been doing that since it opened. It also is something of a beacon for small business owners. Gigi’s was begun by a family and expanded into a profitable business, making it a symbol of success for people aiming to start their own small businesses.

All in all, the fire at Gigi’s was able to prove the amazing things that can happen when a community comes together for a cause. To read more about Gigi’s Soul Food Restaurant and its rebuilding efforts, visit this page.

Community vs. Cancer

The terrible truth of life is it rarely waits for us to be ready before it throws a punch. For some, an uphill battle is all they know, and though to many that type of life seems insurmountable, to others it’s the only life they know. For a 911 dispatcher in a small Iowa town, the past few months have been fraught with bad news and difficulty. But after years of being the first line of response for a town in need, her community intends to return the favor.

Maria Graham, a 20 year veteran of the Pottawatomie County dispatch, was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Having lost her husband weeks ago to the same disease, you can assume the news was a blow to already bruised emotions. But years of being strong for those in need taught Maria to do the same. Though her diagnosis left little room for a silver lining, showing signs of cancer in her bones and lungs, Maria did her best to see the bright side.

Derrick AlgerInspired by her years of service and an overwhelming desire to do good, the people of Pottawatomie County banded together and hosted a fundraiser for Maria. Volunteers with the Crescent Fire Department held a breakfast fit for a kingdom, and invited every local for miles to come around.

The event was much more than a breakfast for the dozens of people in attendance, but a celebration of Maria’s determination to keep fighting. The proceeds from the silent auction, breakfast and raffle went directly to Maria’s treatment. A powerful show of community strength, t-shirts were made, banners hung, and hugs shared between Maria and nearly everyone in attendance. Still in shock from the outpouring of aid, Maria’s stunned smile was all the community needed to know they were doing the right by one of their own. For more on the story, click here.