A famous Turkish pizza maker in New York was awarded the Beacon Award for being a successful immigrant.
Organized by the Dr. Ellis Island Honors Society and the American Immigrant Society (AIS) for the first time this year, the Beacon Awards ceremony was hosted by Turkish-American celebrity surgeon and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Öz to reward successful immigrants.
AIS President Murat Köprülü said the award ceremony was a very important initiative to reward young immigrants and those who want to take new initiatives in the U.S.
Turkish pizza maker and owner of Champion Pizza, Hakkı Akdeniz received an award for his success as an immigrant.
Akdeniz shared his life story on stage after receiving the award - the audience burst into applause when he said that he was once homeless.
He has so far received a total of 12 awards, including two from New York City Governor Andrew Cuomo, one from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and one from New York Senator and Senate Minority Leader Democrat Chuck Schumer.
Daphne Öz, the daughter of health program presenter and nutritionist Mehmet Öz, was also awarded that night.
The Champion Pizza chain's seven branches have already become a popular hangout for Hollywood stars. The walls of the restaurants are covered with pictures of Hollywood celebrities, from Morgan Freeman
and Keanu Reeves to Neil Patrick Harris and Susan Sarandon.
Akdeniz is also known for his help to those in need, poor and homeless. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the owner of the pizza chain announced he would give free pizzas to New Yorkers who would bring water, candles, batteries, flashlights, diapers, vitamins, paper towels and other essential supplies to his restaurants as donations. Partnering with American rapper Jay-Z, Akdeniz sent two trucks loaded with supplies to Puerto Rico.
He started from scratch and saved enough money to open up his first restaurant and now gives free pizza, shoes and clothes to homeless people and those in need every Wednesday.