The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been kind to restaurants. Many, like Real Hacienda in Owensboro, Kentucky, faced statewide mandates to close their doors for months, followed by limits on the number of diners allowed inside. It was a sudden, unexpected slowdown for the business.

But despite it all, Real Hacienda owner Armando Ortiz says he still feels “blessed.”

“Like most businesses, we had to turn to carry-out options and third-party delivery services, but at least we were able to continue operating. Some weren’t able to do that,” Armando says.

He also recognized that many people in the community were losing jobs—and with no income, he knew their options for food were limited, too. After 25 years as an Owensboro restaurateur (the name and location changed to the current Real Hacienda in 2003), he didn’t want to turn his back on his neighbors during a time of need. So he developed a plan to hand out free meals to anyone who might need them.

In just two days, Armando passed out roughly 4,000 free meals—a turnout much greater than he anticipated.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m glad we were able to do it,” Armando says. He sees it as a good thing that he was able to provide food to so many people.

But Armando didn’t want to turn his back on his employees, either. While most of his 40 employees were able to continue working there at least part time, business was much slower. Typical hours and workload had lessened, and that meant smaller paychecks for his staff.

That’s when Armando decided to turn to his financial partners at Old National for help with the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The loan would help the business and continue the payroll for his employees.

“It helped them, and kept the business running,” Armando says. “I’m so thankful to (Old National Bank Region President) Wade Jenkins and everyone at ONB. They go out of their way to help.”

And Owensboro residents and Real Hacienda employees thank Armando for going out of his way to help.

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