Considered a very accomplished single Black woman by her oldest son, Donna Boyer sees herself as an average person trying to survive during bad economic times. The mother of three recently opened a restaurant in the heart of Homestead as a way to support her family and to feed the people. “If it were up to me I’d give this food away,” she said while preparing take out orders. “But one has to survive.”
|READY TO CURB THE APPETITE—Donna Boyer and staff, Natisha Lemons and LaDonica Boyer prepare for a daily crowd of hungry customers.
“Home Cooked” by Donna, located at 243 East 8th Ave., is known in the community for its chicken wings, fish, meatloaf, many side dishes and breakfast. “All my food is home-cooked, fixed to order and made with love.” Boyer said because she feeds a lot of senior citizens there’s no preservatives added to her food.
Boyer calculates that a large part of her business comes from catering. Preparing for the holiday season, she said she has consistent customers who depend on her for special occasions. Clients have included Citizens Bank, the Mon Valley Initiative, Glen Hazel Housing for Seniors and Transition Services. She says family reunions and sports parties are also good events for her.
A self-taught chef using recipes from her deceased grandmother, as well as some of her pots and pans, Boyer said she enjoys serving, cooking for and helping people. “I’d like to hook up with the Meals on Wheels Program, senior citizen homes or groups that feed seniors, even day care centers for children as a way to help,” she added. Considering helping people as her calling she said, “I’ve always worked with, served as a volunteer and been involved with young people.” She has worked at the Homewood North Knowledge Connections Center and Shuman Juvenile Detention Center. Her volunteer service includes the Homewood North Community Food Bank and Pantry, Pittsburgh Community Storehouse, Clean Slate, the Center That CARES and she has served as an AmeriCorps member.
A former Hill District and Homewood resident living in public housing, Boyer said throughout the years she has been able to advance herself by earning an associate’s degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and her bachelor’s from Carlow University. “One of the best ways to teach children is by example,” she said. “I’ve tried to show my children what hard work brings and the importance of self-sufficiency.”
Employed as cashiers, taking orders, doing prep work and inventory control, Boyer’s teenage daughter and son assist her in the restaurant. “I’ve learned a lot from my mom,” said 17-year-old LaDonica. “She’s getting me mentally prepared for the world.” Her 18- year-old friend Natisha Lemons also works with her.
Incarcerated for more than a decade, Boyer’s eldest son Ricky also looks up to his mother. “My mom has made many sacrifices on the account of me and my siblings,” he said. His goal is to assist in the marketing of “Home Cooked” by Donna. “Ricky has a good heart,” said Boyer. “We miss him and appreciate his efforts to help out.”
With the goal to expand her restaurant to a sit-in facility, Boyer says she would like to use it as a training site to empower youths by teaching the basics of business and leadership and customer service skills. “I greet every customer if I’m at the counter or in the back cooking,” she said. “Young people need to know these things.” She also notes that having sit-in eating space would assist her sales, adding that she would be one of a few eat-in restaurants on the Eighth Avenue corridor.
Very sincere and committed to her mission of helping people, Boyer is humbled by the help and support she has received from the community. “A lot of people seem to be on my side,” she said of her her home and business landlords, the Homestead mayor, the fire chief and employees from businesses in the area.
“I’m operating this business by faith and God seems to be putting good people in my life to help me stay focused,” she said. “I like to give and I’m a lot happier giving than receiving, but this is a good experience all around, something we all can benefit from.”
(Orders can be placed by calling 412-368-8045.)