Local moms pampered at Salute e Vita Ristorante brunch

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Menbere Aklilu was on a mission Friday, hurrying through her Mission Bay restaurant at lightening pace, meanwhile struggling to hold back tears.

The owner of Salute e Vita Ristorante holds charitable Mother’s Day Brunch events annually, but the events never fail to overwhelm her emotionally.

In the fifth year, Aklilu invited more than 70 mothers from local housing projects and women’s service centers to a four-course, fine-dining meal at her waterfront restaurant at 1900 Esplanade Drive in Richmond on Friday.

Some of the moms came from the nonprofit For Richmond‘s new community resource center at Pullman Point Apartments.

This year’s Mother’s Day event was extra special, as Aklilu also invited Barbara Harris’ family to the brunch. Harris is the mother of Rashanda Franklin, who was murdered in front of her children in Richmond during a domestic violence incident April 4. The killing deeply affected Aklilu, who witnessed her mother being fatally shot at age 10.

On Thursday, the family received a special day of pampering and were driven by limousine to Friday’s Mother’s Day Brunch.

In addition, Aklilu announced Friday she would take on the private school tuition for Franklin’s children so they don’t have to switch schools at this sensitive time.

“What can I say, these children are me,” Aklilu said. “So I’m blessed to do this.”

Aklilu said she knows her mother — a hotel and restaurant operator who was murdered by a customer over an unpaid bill — is watching over her.

Aklilu’s outpouring for the Mother’s Day weekend doesn’t end today. At 10 a.m. Saturday, she will head over to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where she will transform the hospital cafeteria into an elegant dining room in order to serve more than 150 mothers who spend time with their children at the hospital. A fleet of community volunteers will help serve them at the event, where Aklilu plans to donate $20,000 to the hospital.

Aklilu’s digs into her own pockets for these events but also summons volunteer work and donations from individuals and companies throughout the community. For example, Richmond company Galaxy Desserts provided desserts for the Mother’s Day Brunch, Michael Davenport Transportation provided transportation service and Richmond-based salon “Beauty By Nature” helped pamper the late Franklin’s family.

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