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The life-changing sandwich: Formerly homeless employee creates Peppino's menu item to give back

Miguel Morales was homeless just a few short months ago. Now he's created a special menu item at his work, Peppino's, to give back to the same people who helped him.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A few short months ago, Miguel Morales was homeless, eating his meals and taking his showers at Dégagé Ministries Homeless Shelter. Now, he's working two jobs and already finding ways to give back.

One of his two employers is Peppino's in downtown Grand Rapids, where he's a dishwasher in the restaurants kitchen – the other is Degage. 

"I’m trying to do something for Peppino’s and Degage at the same time," said Morales, "I like to cook and I like to make a lot of sandwiches, so that’s the reason I came up with the idea."

He created 'Miguel's Sub', a special menu item sandwich with ham, turkey, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, banana pepper, green pepper and red onions. Beyond tasting good, every sandwich ordered means Peppino's is giving back to the community. 

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Chris Cutting, the restaurant's manager says they will be donating pizza to feed the patrons of Dégagé's shelter some time in the future, depending on when is best for the organization. Along with that, as the sub sells more and more, some of the staff is donating money, but most significantly, Miguel himself is donating his entire Peppino's paycheck for two months.

"I work two jobs, so I can donate one check and keep the other one," Morales says. "They helped me, so I’m going to try and help them back."

"That’s hard to believe, when we think of two months of our pay, that’s quite the sacrifice," said Bob Kreter, Marketing Manager for Dégagé Ministries. He said even a few hundred dollars can purchase hundreds of meals, cups of coffee, locker rentals and other resources to make a big difference for people experiencing homelessness in Grand Rapids. 

Miguel's goal was set at 200 subs sold, but regardless of hitting that mark, the donations are still happening. As of Sunday night, the tally was 71 subs sold. While that's short of the goal, it's still sold like hotcakes. Halfway through the weeklong run on the specials menu, it became the most ordered special menu item at Peppino's this year. 

"What’s really beautiful about his story is that it’s not that uncommon," Kreter said. "He hasn’t been housed that long, but he so quickly wants to give back... There's a lot of good people in this world and Miguel is one of them."

Morales hopes the sandwich and the donations from it will inspire others in the unhoused position he recently overcame. You won't be able to find the 'Miguel Sub' on the menu after Sunday night, but it will still be available upon request for another week or so.

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