Upper Darby, PA – “We need to take back our community. This is our community. We need to be strong and unite, settle our differences, come together, and move forward. You can’t look back right now. You move forward. You rebuild from the coronavirus, you rebuild from this, and hopefully, it will end soon,” said Joanne Pallas outside of her family-run business, Leandro’s Pizza House.

On Sunday, a wave of protesters and looters made their way through the city of Philadelphia, eventually moving from west Philadelphia into Upper Darby, continuing the looting as they entered the 69th Street shopping district and wreaking havoc. On Monday, the overwhelmed police finally got some help when the National Guard finally rolled in.

For the last two days, Joanne, her husband Dimitri, and their daughter Rafaela have jumped into action to help their community. They have been donating food to the National Guard and Upper Darby police officers that have been on the scene since looters ransacked the 69th Street shopping district on Sunday.

Wheeling their cart up and down the desolate sidewalk of 69th Street, the three have delivered pizza to the men and women that had come to protect their community and business. Around the corner from 69th Street, the Pallas’ brought dozens of pizzas to the Upper Darby American Legion Post 214, which has been activated as a central hub for the police and National Guard.

“I feel like I can finally sleep at night,” said Pallas. Joanne and Dimitri, who live behind their business in one of the adjacent streets, got to watch up close with their family as looters walked through their yard and back again where they sat. “What could we do? We were overwhelmed and in fear that if we did or said anything, they would attack us,” added Pallas. “So we stood by and watched them pass into the alley behind our house where they broke into the businesses,” said Pallas. “We understand peaceful protests, but this was just plain stealing and destruction.”

Many of the stores along the 69th Street corridor that were hit included Footlocker, Madrag, and a Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits store that had been boarded up. Other stores were also reportedly being looted and vandalized Sunday evening as police massed at the corner of 69th and Market Streets, attempting to drive out the looters. Fortunately, the looters weren’t able to enter Leandro’s Pizza because of a cage that was over the front of their store.

The Pallas family took over the popular 46-year-old business three years ago. They are long-time members of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church just a few blocks away from where their children attend Greek and Sunday schools. “This is my home. I’ve lived here all my life. It’s sad, but we’ll get through this,” said Pallas.

Leandro’s Pizza had just recently opened for take-out service after they were forced to close because of COVID-19, but unfortunately, as a result of other stores not being opened, there was no foot traffic, which Leandro’s Pizza counts on to sustain the business. “It’s been a long three months since COVID-19 hit us. When we opened, we knew it was going to take some time for people to come in again,” said Dimitri Pallas. “But now, with this, it will take even longer because people will be concerned, and it will take time for them to be confident again. When something like this happens in Upper Darby, we are there to help the police and everyone. They are trying to protect us and my business, Leandro’s Pizza, so we will always be there for the police,” added Pallas.

Cosmos Philly commends the shop owners and business people who have endured the suffering of the COVID-19 closures, and now the trauma of the destruction of their stores and communities, and urges our viewers and readers to support them in any way you can. It all starts with a little help from “our” friends.