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'I'm Losing My House To Coronavirus': Samba Montclair Owner Ilson Gonclaves Provides Meals For Hungry Despite Financial Struggles

MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey restaurant owner who is struggling to save his business during the pandemic has found a way to give back to those in need.

Ilson Gonclaves has owned Samba Montclair in Montclair, New Jersey, for over 10 years.

"I do this for passion, I don't do this for money," said Gonclaves in an interview with CBS2's Cory James.

But a lack of money might make it impossible for Gonclaves to fuel that passion.

With a 90% decline in sales, Gonclaves fears COVID-19 will strip away his Brazilian farm-to-table restaurant.

"My rent is late two months and I tried to get money from the government," said Gonclaves. "If I keep like this for two more months, I must have to close the restaurant."

Instead of focusing on that, Gonclaves is making it his mission to give back.

Since the pandemic, he has cooked over 350 healthy meals for Toni's Kitchen in Montclair. The organization provides food for people in need and right now the need is growing by the day.

"Last year, our average meal count for the year was about 4,300 meals a week. Our last meal count, which was about two weeks ago, was 24,000," said Anne Mernon, the executive director of Toni's Kitchen. "So he's supporting neighbors who have a little bit higher need at this moment than he does, but he know that he's only a step away from that."

Gonclaves says he's had to dig into his own pockets to do this.

"I'm losing my house to coronavirus," said Gonclaves.

Still, he says that's the least of his worries because he knows there are people getting hit harder.

"I appreciate so much, to be grateful to have a restaurant and can help. I wish I can help more," Gonclaves said. "You see lines on TV and people don't have enough to eat. It's something, it really touch my heart because it's food. People right now are dying because they don't have food."

Fresh food the struggling restaurant owner says he will keep preparing and give away for as long as he can.

Gonclaves is using some of the money from takeout orders to continue purchasing food for Toni's Kitchen. He is also taking donations to make meals for Toni's Kitchen.

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