On the Thursday before Thanksgiving, the line out of a McDonald’s in Denver extended out the door.
The people weren’t clamoring for Big Macs, however. They were there to partake in a complimentary Thanksgiving feast that the owners of the franchise, Geta and Janice Asfaw, have been serving to the poor of their neighborhood for 23 years.
Originally, the Asfaws cooked up a meal consisting of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing for the area’s senior citizens, but lately, they’ve become even more generous. The event now includes a presentation of scholarships to high school students and a bike giveaway for elementary schoolers.
Last year, the Asfaws distributed 250 bicycles to low-income children nominated by their teachers for academic achievement or persistence in the face of obstacles. (Through the years, the Asfaws have united with other Denver restaurant franchise owners and nonprofits to distribute 1,700 children’s bikes.) Last year, Geta told Austin Briggs of the Denver Post, “We want them to hear that it doesn’t matter where they are today, it’s where you are 20 years from now that matters.”
Geta knows a few things about how to bring about personal transformation through hard work. He left Ethiopa to attend college in America in 1972, and after a coup in 1974 made it impossible to return home, he stayed in the U.S., earned his college degree and eventually became a citizen. In 1991, he bought his first McDonald’s franchise and now owns eight of them.
Last week, Geta told the Denver Post, “We’ve always felt that as local businessmen we should give back to the community — not just take the money. That’s what we said at the start. If we’re going to (be here), we’re going to do that. Even when we didn’t have much, we always felt it was our responsibility.”
So if you ever find yourself in Denver with a hankering for French fries, we can’t think of nicer people to get your craving satisfied by.