Eduard Seitan is one of the many business owners who has been hard hit by the ongoing global pandemic. The 48-year-old had been living the American dream until 2020 turned everything upside down.

Seitan moved to America from Romania when he was 19 years old. He didn’t know English at the time but found a job working in an Italian restaurant. He’d move up in the industry through the years, eventually becoming a head server. In 1997, he became a partner in the One Off Hospitality Group, which opened multiple restaurants around the Chicago area.

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When the pandemic hit, Seitan was forced to stop taking a salary and his company furloughed more than 700 employees. Making his mortgage payments each month had become a struggle. He found something very rewarding to do with his extra time, however. Seitan, who is the owner of a small plane, began volunteering with Pilots N Paws.

The charity enlists the help of volunteer pilots to transport at-risk animals. Many of the animals flown through the program are at risk of being euthanized in shelters. Pilots like Seitan fly them to areas with room in no-kill shelters, prison programs, or other places where the animals can find homes. Seitan says he started flying a lot more when the pandemic hit and now he only flies for the Pilots N Paws program.

“Flying is my really happy place,” he said to Today. “Since the pandemic started, because of the extra time I had on my hands, I have been flying a lot more than usual. But now, I only fly with a purpose for Pilots N Paws.”

Seitan also volunteers to care for dogs with Chicago Animal Care and Control. Customers who order takeout from one of his restaurants also receive a photo of a dog available for adoption from the organization.

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Many restaurant owners and employees are struggling right now during the pandemic. Eduard Seitan, however, is focusing on how the downtime created by the pandemic is allowing him to help more animals.

“I think it does so much to your soul when you start volunteering, in general, for anything,” he said. “But for me, because of my love for animals, it makes me feel so good and so complete and so happy at the end of the mission knowing that I helped an animal to get to a better life.”

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You can help support the work done by Pilots N Paws by making a donation through this link.

Sign this petition to help support no-kill shelters during the pandemic.

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