Faith community, nonprofit to honor restaurant owner at ‘Soulful Sunday’


Even if the beloved and charitable owner’s Richmond restaurant no longer faces eviction, the outpouring of community support for Menbere “Menbe” Aklilu continues.

On Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., members of five churches and a local nonprofit are holding a “Soulful Sunday at Salute e Vita Ristorante.”

The event, which welcomes all members of the community, is a celebration of Aklilu and the restaurant she operates at 1900 Esplanade Drive, according to For Richmond, the nonprofit that is helping to organize the event.

“This event is one way for the faith community to express its gratitude for Menbe’s kindness to those in need,” according to a statement by For Richmond.

Participating churches include Church by the Side of the Road, St. Columba, Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, Easter Hill United Methodist Church and St. Mark Parish (San Marco).

The gathering will include prayer and a performance by the Northern Light School’s children’s choir.

Aklilu, a domestic violence survivor who worked her way up from hostess to general manager before purchasing Salute, has garnered many friends in the community for using her restaurant to launch good deeds in the community. She holds a massive annual Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless, pampers low-income single moms on Mother’s Day and donates to local centers serving domestic violence victims, among other causes.

But the recipient of the 2015 Jefferson Award for volunteerism faced a serious test last month when she faced eviction by her landlord. Hundreds of community members came to her side to oppose the eviction, a showing of support that played a role in the landlord’s decision to rescind the eviction notice. For more background, go here.