A Chef Feeds Hungry 'Motel Kids'

updated 09/06/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

BRUNO SERATO, 53

Anaheim, Calif.

Restaurant owner Bruno Serato was visiting the Boys & Girls Clubs in Anaheim in 2005 with his mother, Caterina, when they noticed a small boy eating potato chips for dinner. When she learned that his parents couldn't afford to provide a real meal, Caterina insisted that her son feed the child, who lived with his family in a low-income motel nearby. "Children have to eat," Serato recalls his mother saying. "So we went back to the kitchen and made pasta."

That was the first of 250,000 meals the owner of the upscale Anaheim White House restaurant has served to children in need. Five nights a week, Serato, who grew up poor in Italy, delivers fresh pasta to 150 so-called "motel kids" at the club, all free of charge. "Nobody has a greater passion for the people he's serving," says Anaheim mayor Curt Pringle.

One grateful recipient: Katlin Hadley, 12, who lives with her brother, parents and an uncle in a one-room motel room. "I get hungry sometimes," she says. Adds her mom, Mandy, 32: "What Bruno is doing is absolutely amazing."

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