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Hundreds in need receive free meal, gifts

By Liz Kilmer, Reporter, LKilmer@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 12 2013 04:36:40 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 12 2013 05:51:49 PM CST

It was a special day for Berks County folks in need on Tuesday.

READING, Pa. -

It was a special day for Berks County folks in need on Tuesday.

Nearly 1,500 were welcomed out of the cold to receive free meals, gifts and even flu shots. It was all part of the fifth annual People First event, organized by Queen City Family Restaurant.

"We're trying to make a celebration for these people, to make them feel special," said Elsayed Elmarzouky, owner of the restaurant on Lancaster Avenue.

Each year, Elmarzouky arranges for personal invites to be sent to the homeless and less fortunate. Recipients are selected with help from the Berks Coalition to End Homelessness, local churches and shelters.

"It's a huge blessing," said recipient Carolyn Collins, who spoke to 69 News alongside her husband, James, and autistic son, Michael.

The Reading family is currently homeless, struggling to make ends meet.

"We've been going through a bit of a rough patch," said James.

Yet for the family, People First made a big difference, and not just because of the free goodies.

The event just so happened to fall on Michael's 11th birthday, and volunteers sang for him, helping to celebrate.

"[It was] one of the most exciting times in my life so far," said Michael. "Double thumbs up!"