KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Yassin Terou, the owner of Yassin’s Falafel House, is always finding new ways to help those in our community and beyond. Recently, he wanted to focus his efforts on Knoxville’s homeless community.  

Terou made a name for himself in the Knoxville community and beyond. In 2018, Yassin’s Falafel House was named Reader’s Digest’s “Nicest Place in America” and awarded the 2018 Rotary Peace Prize. 

When asked why he likes to give back, Terou said, “I came here 14 years ago now and I started my first location downtown. Now we have, with the help of our community and the great support, we have three locations and over 70 or 80 employees right now working for us.” 

He said as an immigrant himself, he knows what it’s like to get a helping hand.

“I always say I’m just giving the favor back. I came here with nothing, and without the support and without somebody giving me that chance, and supporting me and loving me, I may have been one of the guys in the street,” said Terou.

The other day, Terou did something a little unconventional. He decided to go to the Broadway Bridge with a sign and a mission.  

“We offered at the beginning, a dollar for a full bag of trash, so that basically, you just have to collect your trash. So, we thought that may be something to start with. As soon as I went there, a very nice homeless lady said, ‘I will do it for a dollar because I do it anyway’ and she actually did it from her heart. She went and cleaned, and after that, I increased it to two dollars and another two showed up,” he explained.

Terou explained that he wanted to see who would work for the small amount of money instead of just asking people for a handout.  

“The very nice girl who showed up at the beginning, I offered her a job. I asked her why she’s not working, and she said, ‘no one will hire me,'” he said.

Terou has created a new nonprofit called Seeds & Bridges which will help those who are willing and able to work find transportation and clean clothes so they can feel confident walking into a work environment.  

“We’re going to grow seeds of love and seeds of hope in our community and so we’re going to look for people with less of a chance, but they have the talent, they have the skill and we’re going to partner with them to be partners in businesses,” he said.

Terou wants to show people that with the right work ethic and a few dollars, a trash bin full of trash can turn into an opportunity for someone to turn their life around. 

Terou said he hasn’t heard from the woman he offered the job to just yet, but he hopes to hear from her soon.  

He said he has done similar exercises like this before and has hired several people over the years from the local homeless community who have become great employees and turned their lives around.