By Betul Yuruk
A famous Turkish pizza maker in New York was awarded on Thursday for being a successful immigrant.
Organized by the Ellis Island Honors Society and 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 Oz to reward successful immigrants.
AIS President Murat Koprulu said that the award ceremony was a very important initiative with an aim to reward young immigrants and those who want to take new initiatives in the U.S.
Turkish pizza maker and owner of Champion Pizza Hakki Akdeniz received an award for his success as an immigrant.
When he said that nobody knew he was once homeless, Akdeniz received a great amount of applause with telling his life story while he was on stage to take his award.
He received a total of 12 awards, including two from New York City Governor Andrew Cuomo, one from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, one from New York Senator and one from Senate Minority Leader Democrat Chuck Schumer.
Daphne Oz, the daughter of Turkish surgeon Oz, health program presenter and nutritionist, was also awarded in the night.
Champion Pizza chain with its seven branches
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
Partnering with American rapper Jay-Z, Akdeniz sent two trucks loaded with supplies to Puerto Rico.
Akdeniz started from scratch and saved enough money to open up his first restaurant and now gives free pizza, shoes