After Armando Ortiz made the tough decision of ending a free meal service, he found more ways to give back to Owensboro to help those in need.
Ortiz, the owner of both local Real Hacienda Mexican Restaurants, offered free meals last week to those whose financial situations had taken a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The restaurant was soon flooded with orders, and citizens came out in droves for the free meals.
Once positive coronavirus cases came to Owensboro, he decided it was too risky to keep going. Plus, he said, the crowds were getting rowdy.
“Our main concern was that the number of cases near our community increased,” he said. “We cannot expose our volunteers, employees and families. Also, people started fighting over parking spots and things like that. That made us very concerned about the safety of everybody who participated.”
Ortiz said Real Hacienda served about 4,000 meals, and Friday alone 1,600 meals were given out. He said it was a tough decision to stop, but Ortiz quickly came up with other ways to give back.
One of those was to buy more than 200 spray bottles and fill them with a disinfectant solution. In a video posted to Facebook, he said the spray bottles can be picked up along with food orders.
In the video, he also gave tips on proper hand hygiene and how to lower the chance of contamination.
Additionally, Ortiz said he has thought of a way to help get people food if the city goes into a lockdown and the grocery stores get backed up.
“I was thinking maybe before they shut us down if I have plenty of rice and beans I will portion (into pounds) and give it to people if they don’t have any groceries,” Ortiz said. “Whatever I have in stock, that was my next idea.”
Ortiz has even turned his attention to helping the local homeless shelters, as he’s always looking to help those who are unarguably in need.
“I know I was doing what I felt (was the right thing to do) at the time,” he said of the free meals. “It made me feel happy, very happy. I was excited. Every day I was having different ideas. I was happy to help. Every day, I couldn’t sleep. I was just thinking about what we should do next.”
The Owensboro Health coronavirus hotline is available 24/7 by calling 877-888-6647. Call the hotline before seeking in-person care. More information from OH can be found here.
For the latest information and data on COVID-19 in Kentucky visit kycovid19.ky.gov or dial the Kentucky state hotline at 800-722-5725.
For the latest health guidelines and resources from the CDC, visit their website here.