NEWTON — In a show of support for front-line workers as well as residents struggling for their next meal, 4Chicks Cafe prepared dozens of hot meals and collected necessary items as part of a coordinated donation effort set to conclude tonight.


Since the end of last week, employees have stayed at 4Chicks from 5 to 8 p.m., after regular hours, to prepare dishes of fried chicken, a biscuit, macaroni and cheese and pickles, with a beignet for dessert. As of tonight, the restaurant will have given away more than 200 meals to residents and essential employees within the county.


Ari Laboy, co-owner of 4Chicks along with her husband Richard, said the idea to give back came after food supplier US Foods donated extra items to the restaurant for support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation allowed 4Chicks to prepare some of its dishes to the county for free when it otherwise would not have been able to.


“We always would want to do it,” Laboy said, “but as a small business, it’s hard to just give away food when you’re not making (much money).”


The restaurant started out small a day earlier than originally planned, delivering 20 meals on Friday to community members who have helped out the business from its first location on Moran Street in July 2015. On Saturday, 4Chicks gave out an additional 49 meals to local residents in need, followed the next day by a donation of 40 meals to workers at Newton Medical Center and five more to residents.


Laboy and 4Chicks employees made 43 more meals for local families Monday and 40 more for hospital workers Tuesday. The restaurant extended its initial donation effort to tonight and is set to take 23 meals to members of the Newton Rescue Squad.


With 4Chicks paving the way, several other local businesses and residents have chipped in to the restaurant’s donations, Laboy said. On Point Pest Control gave extra masks — which enabled the eatery to include them in each meal donated to families — while other customers contributed money, water, napkins and toilet paper to be given out by the restaurant.


In addition, 4Chicks set up an online donation link for the No Kid Hungry link which had already met its goal of $400 earlier this week.


Kimberly Williams, Newton’s community development director, praised the efforts of 4Chicks in helping local residents and health care workers through the difficult time. The donation effort, she said, is evidence of how the Laboys have “totally invested in the town of Newton” since opening the restaurant nearly five years ago.


As for Ari Laboy, she is pleased that her restaurant’s initiative has been so well received and well supported, noting that many other small businesses have instituted similar donations as well.


“At first I was a little overwhelmed, but it’s been a great turnout,” she said. “Everyone’s kind of coming together, and it’s really nice in times like this especially.”


Kyle Morel can also be contacted on Twitter: @KMorelNJH, on Facebook: Facebook.com/KMorelNJH, or by phone: 973-383-1292.