Cuyahoga Falls developer Joel Testa asked family and friends for a gift on his 42nd birthday two weeks ago. He sent out a Facebook message requesting help to feed and clothe Akron’s homeless population during the holidays.
Testa and his wife, Mary, would shoulder most of the expense personally, yet on such short notice, pulling it together was a daunting task.
Testa said he is passionate about changing the perception people have of the area’s homeless.
“Generally, people are afraid of the homeless,” said Testa. “The homeless are not lepers. Homelessness can happen to anyone.”
But Testa didn’t stop there. He wanted to give something special to as many of Akron’s homeless population as possible. He and his business partners at d.b.a., the restaurant he owns with Dante Boccuzzi and Morgan Yagi on the ground floor of North side Lofts, prepared dinner for 50 homeless guests at the restaurant.
Most of the men and women who were treated to the meal served on fine dinnerware and crystal sleep in makeshift tents set up in the woods or on the cold concrete outside a public building.
Chef Torsten Schulz planned a four-course menu Sunday that included spinach quiche salad, potato leek soup, braised beef short ribs and a chocolate mousse desert. Diners were offered seconds and handed takeout bags with leftovers as they departed.
Testa estimated the dinner for 50 would run about $1,000 to be absorbed by the restaurant.