Janesville business owner receives $400 gift; donates it right back to the community

Published: May. 12, 2020 at 10:28 AM CDT
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A business owner in Janesville received a generous $400 check from a customer in the mail, but then decided to take that money and donate it back into the community.

“I thought ‘oh my god’ but I knew I couldn’t keep that check. I knew it was done with such great intentions that I felt the need to share it with others, too,” said Edmund Halabi, owner of the Italian House restaurant at the corner of E. Racine Street and S. Randall Avenue.

Halabi says he came to work last week and opened a letter from a customer that read: “We feel fortunate to not have immediate needs for our stimulus check, so, therefore, we have decided to donate it to various businesses that may have been hit hard by the current situation,”

Halabi says the donors have been customers of his for more than 25 years.

“I called and thanked them for the check and said to them I can’t accept this check,” he said. “I said we are doing great. We’ve been in business for 32 years, so we have been very busy. So I’m going to pass on this check to other organizations in this community so they can benefit too,”

Halabi took the $400 and donated it to three local non-profit organizations: a men’s shelter, women’s shelter, and ECHO Inc.

Halabi says despite the dining room being closed, his business is doing relatively well. The Italian House accepts carry-out orders, has a drive-thru, and has a dedicated following of customers. He also believes his staff has been compensated well from tips coming in from customers.

Still, Halabi says the donation and act of generosity was overwhelming.

“I stopped and reflected a little bit and thought we have such great stewards in our community who step up to help others before themselves,” he said. “I mean, I’m sure they could have kept the check for themselves, gone out a cruise in the future whatever, but they chose to pass it on and that just reflected how great of a community we have,”

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the restaurant industry hard. Halabi says the '08-'09 General Motors shutdown was also a massive blow to his business.

“So, for the first couple of years, revenues were down about 50% in most mom and pop businesses,” he said.

Halabi got creative to stay afloat. He contacted the local Woodman’s grocery store and asked them to put some of his products on the shelves. They agreed. That move, Halabi says, kept him in business until the economy started to turn around.

“It just shows the resiliency of the American business owner that no matter what, we will find another way of surviving,” he said.


Posted by Italian House on Monday, May 4, 2020