Students rally behind suburban restaurant owners who cook free meals for those in need

Chicago News

EVANSTON, Ill. — Pablo Sanchez and Erika Castro bought Gyro Planet in Evanston after they both lost their jobs in the spring of 2019. 

They were still building that dream a year later when the pandemic hit. They said their income dropped 75% when their biggest customer base, the students attending Evanston Township High School across the street, moved to online learning.

But Erika and Pablo were more concerned about their neighbors. As an immigrant herself, Erika said she understood the challenges many were already facing.

“With the pandemic hitting the country really hard and people losing their jobs, I just say we need to do something,” she said.

For the past seven months they’ve been doing more than something, they’ve been cooking free meals for 110 people every day.

“I have families that they have kids with disabilities, single moms,” Erika said. “They just came and said, ‘you know what, I need help.’”

But now Erika and Pablo need help keeping the business running, and keeping their commitment to the families that depend on them.

“We’re just trying to survive,” Erika said.

Hearing of their difficulties, Amy Landolt, her daughter Zoe and other Evanston Township students and recent graduates decided to start an  online auction to raise money for Gyros Planet.

“So we had the idea of how do we all donate what we have to offer,” Amy Landolt said.

So people are offering what they can. Some students are offering tech support, Algebra tutoring, and spelling help.

“I’m doing zoom bedtime stories either in English or in Spanish,” Zoe Landolt said.

These students want to do what they can to make sure Erika and Pablo can keep making a difference.

“What Erika and Pablo are doing is just absolutely selfless,” Zoe Landolt said.

Amy Landolt said it’s up to the community to make sure they get the support they need. They also started a GoFundMe campaign to support the effort. 

“You can just see a lot of angels and a lot of people helping and that is really amazing,” Erika said.

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