Local restaurant owner offers free meals to those in need

March 17, 2020 | 7:39 pm

Updated March 23, 2020 | 2:59 pm

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When Armando Ortiz posted a video to social media Monday afternoon offering free meals to those in need, he never could have imagined the response he would get. The owner of both Real Hacienda locations in Owensboro said he didn’t do it for any reason other than it was the right thing to do at a time like this.

“I believe it’s our civic duty to do something for the community,” he said. “In Mexico, we grew up with the mentality that when someone is in need, we pull together.”

Ortiz said if you look, there’s always someone stepping up to help others in crisis.

Monday night, the restaurant was fielding calls for to-go orders, preparing food for pick-up and offering those in need meals free of charge. Although they ran out of food, Ortiz believes that was a good sign.

“That’s what this is for; I am glad we ran out of food,” Ortiz said. “Since it was a little crazy Monday between mixing up regular deliveries and the call ahead meals, we decided to set up at the Sports Center on Tuesday. I was looking for a spot that was central to where people might be needing it.”

Since Monday, the restaurant has given away hundreds of meals to the community. Ortiz, who has operated Real Hacienda in Owensboro for the past 23 years, says he doesn’t believe in helping people to get his name out there, but helping people because it’s the right thing to do.

“There’s a lot of people that can’t afford groceries, that are unemployed for a while; it’s going to be tough. I just felt like I should be doing something,” Ortiz said.

After Ortiz and his son served free lunches on Tuesday for two hours at the Sportscenter, he had such a good response that he decided to return at dinner time. His goal is to do the same thing at various locations the rest of the week.

Tentatively, Ortiz will set up at Chautauqua Park for both lunch and dinner on Wednesday and will choose locations at varied points in the city for the rest of the week. He also plans to set up on the southside of Owensboro where there are numerous apartment complexes and a more dense population.

“I have had people ask me how I will know if people are taking advantage of this. We have had cars pull up and get 8-10 meals. I say I am not going to judge and I just hope they are using it for good purposes,” Ortiz said.

In total, Ortiz said his family owns 38 restaurants in various states. Many of them have decided to do the same thing for their communities.

“I feel really really good about helping families that call in,” he said. “I am going to do it until the food stops coming.”

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March 17, 2020 | 7:39 pm

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