Uptown restaurant helping homeless employee, family stay out of the cold

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The staff at an uptown Charlotte restaurant is helping one of their own this cold January.

19-year-old Eli McKeller is a food runner at 204 North Kitchen and Cocktails on N. Tryon Street. He's worked at the restaurant for two months.

When McKeller showed up for work Monday, some employees noticed something wrong with their colleague.

He had signs of frostbite on his hands. It was then they learned he was living in a tent in a wooded area not far from North Davidson Street. Immediately they wanted to help make a change.

"Everyone needs a hand in a different way, shape or form," said restaurant owner Anthony Kearey.

Monday night he and some other colleagues braved the cold weather to check out McKeller's living situation.

"Just getting stuff out of his tent, we were there five minutes and even though we had big jackets on and stuff like that it was still very cold," said Kearey.

The owner took McKeller to a Walmart to buy him a few supplies and also paid for him and his family to get a hotel room for a few nights. The food runner said the chilly nights have been hard on the family.

"It's been crazy, real crazy," said McKeller.

His mother said that living homeless with her children has been the hardest thing she's ever done.

"To have my children see me in that situation and to see them in that situation is hard," said Joesatter Smith.

Smith said her family came to Charlotte last year after their home in Lumberton, North Carolina was damaged during Hurricane Matthew. Recently they've been using blankets and candles to keep warm in their tents. The family is very appreciative of the help they are now getting from the staff at 204 North.

"There's no words to describe how grateful I am," said McKeller.

The staff is working on finding a permanent living arrangement for the family. They've created a GoFundMe page to help raise money for McKeller.

People who wish to help the family in other ways can also send an email to info@masonjargroup.com.

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