It’s been a tough year for Amarildo Bojko, but he and his wife, Kelly Guerrero, haven’t stopped giving back.
Their food truck and catering business, Byz. Empire, which serves a mix of Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine, was supposed to take off in 2020. Then COVID-19 came along, cancelling nearly all their planned weddings, festivals and private events.
“This was our second year in business, and we had it fully booked,” Bojko said.
Bojko and Guerrero are now the company’s only employees. They were forced to lay off their small three-to-four person workforce.
Still, since the early days of the pandemic, the couple have been providing free food to essential workers, such as police officers and nurses, twice a month.
And, on New Year’s Eve, Byz. Empire will be distributing more than 1,000 free meals in Kensington in partnership with the Sisters of St. Joseph Welcome Center and the Mother of Mercy House.
The neighborhood has a special connotation for Bojko. His family settled in Kensington after immigrating from Albania about 20 years ago, when he was a child, and the Sisters of St. Joseph helped them get on their feet.
Last year for New Year’s, they served 450 people, and they were able to up the ante this time around thanks to donations, which were solicited through Byz. Empire’s website, Bojko said.
They will begin handing out the food — rice and beans with chicken, along with a bottle of water — at around noon at Mother of Mercy House, 720 E. Allegheny Ave., and continue until the meals are gone.