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Customers at New Orleans gas station restaurant purchase extra meals for strangers to redeem

Shawarma On-The-Go serves up more than Middle Eastern cuisine. Tickets taped up in front of the register are unclaimed meals from one stranger to another.

NEW ORLEANS — Help for others who are hungry is coming one meal at a time. It's all thanks to the warm-hearted customers of a restaurant tucked away inside a gas station on Magazine Street. 

Shawarma On-The-Go serves up more than Middle Eastern cuisine, as seen on tickets taped up in front of the register. The receipts are unclaimed meals from one stranger to another.

"They leave a small message for the people," Abbas Alsherees, owner of Shawarma On-The-Go.

He opened the food spot four years ago and regularly gives food to anyone he sees struggling to afford a meal.

"We've been doing it since I opened to anyone hungry," he said. 

His customers took notice and as COVID-19 began threatening business, they began pitching in.

"They see it and say 'okay, let me do one more meal for another person who will come' and it started like that," Alsherees said. 

While stopping in to purchase a meal for themselves, customers began buying an extra meal for whoever needs it. 

"I'll donate a gyro sandwich," one of the customers, May Wen said as she was purchasing her meal. 

Most include a note.

"We'll get through this together," was written on the receipt of Wen's donation. 

The receipt will stay taped up until someone redeems it. 

"New Orleans - we've always prided ourselves on our sense of community. Katrina taught us that and during COVID, we need to grab as many opportunities to let each other know that we have each others backs," Wen said. 

"It's beautiful. It's people also supporting us too. They want to help us stay in business," Alsherees said. 

There are no questions asked to anyone needing a meal. 

"Anybody come pull a ticket, give it to us, we give them a meal without any questions," Alsherees said. 

He recognizes many are struggling now more than ever.

"Friday, a lady said 'I have three people.' She called us said 'can I have three tickets?' I said 'take as many as you want, it's yours, not mine," Alsherees aid. 

As he serves up hummus, gyro, and shawarma, he watches a community pitch in to serve one another.

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