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Business leaders raise money to provide free meals to health care workers and help local restaurants

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Posted at 5:24 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 19:03:54-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some Nashville business leaders are raising money to offer free meals to health care workers and to help restaurants pay their employees.

An e-mail circulated this weekend has already raised $45,000.

The money will help three locally owned restaurants stay in business and pay their employees, and support exhausted health care workers on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis.

The business leaders behind the effort are staying anonymous, but they hope others take the idea and run with it.

Drive past most restaurants and you see the signs in their windows.

Their dinning rooms are closed, but they still offer take-out orders.

Maher Fawaz moved to Nashville in 1984, and he currently owns three restaurants - Kalamata's, Santo and Epice.

"We are a small business. We have a few employees and we haven't let anybody go yet," Fawaz said.

This weekend he got a call from some customers hoping to help him stay in business, and hoping to help nurses and hourly health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus battle.

"They want to do something for the health care people. They are taking all these risks and being under that stress of dealing with the virus," Fawaz said.

A email circulated among business leaders this weekend asking for donations to pay for meals for health care workers with $25 gift cards for take out orders.

The letter states they are raising money "in an effort to show health care workers our love and support."

The health care workers can get the meals at one of Maher's three restaurants.

It means Maher will be able to keep paying his employees.

"We don't know how long this is going to last, but it will help me support them and supplement a little bit what I am having to do to keep them. So I don't have to let them go because they all have families."

Maher is also contributing 20% on top of whatever is raised. He said he's not making any money, he's just trying to pay all his bills including employee salaries.

He hopes this catches on so other restaurants can stay in business.

"I hope one way or another it brings something good instead of just listening about the virus. I hope it brings some good news to the city," Fawaz said.

Maher said health care workers just have to show their medical ID's when they pick up their to-go orders.

The three restaurants involved are Kalamata's, Epice and Santo in the Green Hills and 12 South areas.

It is just three restaurants, but perhaps it sets an example of how it could be done on a larger scale.