The novel coronavirus pandemic has dealt a massive blow to the hospitality industry, with the state of Pennsylvania mandating take-out only service and the closure of bars and gatherings of 50 or more people. While many restaurants shift to takeout to survive, Frank’s Place owner-chef Frank “Turk” Cerminaro, found a way to change an otherwise difficult circumstance into something positive. He says the inspiration came from a customer’s random act of kindness.

“A customer came into the restaurant to pick up a take-out order and gave me $50 to help anyone in need,” Cerminar said. “That got the ball rolling. We need to do something too.”

Cerminaro put the word out on Facebook. Soon after, the donations began to trickle in. Frank’s Place is now in search of a reputable donor account in order to make donations more accessible. As of Sunday, the restaurant received 300 pounds of pasta, 100 pounds of chicken, 40 cases of sauce, 20 cases of oranges, 20 cases of raisins and boxes of takeout containers.

“People are being very generous and considerate,” said Cerminaro. “Earlier today, we received huge contributions from John Regal and Catholic Social Services. People have been coming by all weekend to give us donations. Some are even ordering and delivering the dinners for families or someone they know who can use a free meal. That takeout might be the only meal some people eat today. No one should go hungry. We’ll keep this going as long as we can.”

Cerminaro’s parents, Joanna and the late Frank Cerminaro Sr., opened Frank’s Place in 1968. He now runs the popular bar and eatery with his brother, Chris and wife, Kelly.

On Saturday, Frank’s Place served more than 300 dinners to those in need, free of charge, according to Cerminaro.

On Sunday, the restaurant served 400 more. The free meals included the choice of pasta and meatballs or chicken and rice with sides of fresh bread, oranges and raisins. Takeout orders were taken from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and were available for pick-up or delivery between 12-4 p.m. The businessman said the restaurant’s dining rooms were closed and curbside pick-up was bustling. Staff members wore gloves and told drivers not to get out of their cars.

Cerminaro was so happy with the public’s response that he decided to keep the effort going as long as possible.

“There are a lot of people who are struggling right now,” he said. “It’s our mission to give support when it’s needed. No one should go hungry. We don’t want people to be in a panic. We’re all in this together. We’ll get through this.”

To make a donation, purchase a gift card at franksplacesimpson.com and type “donation” in the notes section.

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