SUDBURY -- A Syrian refugee who immigrated to Canada with his family and set up a bakery shop in Sudbury is receiving an outpouring of support from the community.

A GoFundMe campaign is underway to help the Damascus Bakery survive after two recent crimes and the impacts of the pandemic.

The owner said recent vandalism and a theft came at a very bad time, with the business struggling to keep the doors open.

"COVID-19 is the same as war in my country," said Hussein Qarqouz the owner of Damascus Bakery. "Before COVID-19, workers in downtown come in here, lunchtime I am very busy."

Customer and friend Emma Golden recently set up the GoFundMe campaign, which has so far tripled its goal of $5,000. She was excited to share the news with Qarqouz.

"The first thing that he thought of was he wants to keep helping people," Golden said. "To me, that is just, that is just an amazing person."

In the past two years, Damascus Bakery has distributed food to people struggling on the streets.

Important for him to help

Qarqouz said after experiencing hardships during the Syrian civil war, including hunger and jail, it's important to him to help other people in need.

"I can't see people hungry and not doing anything for them," said Qarqouz.

Philippe Paiement has been a regular customer at Damascus since it opened in 2018.

"I think we have a duty as a community to support the people that support us," Paiement said. "It adds to the culture of Sudbury and also it's a fundamental part of a healthy community."

Qarqouz said he plans to use the money pay overdue rent, repair the vandalism, fix up the kitchen and give the rest back to the community by helping the less fortunate.