Paying it forward: How receipts on a restaurant wall can help those in need of a meal

WATSON — The holiday season is often marked by joyous gatherings, abundant food, and thoughtful presents. However, for some, this time of year can serve as a reminder of what they lack.

For Papi’s Fajita Factory, this is the time of year when giving back means more, and it’s a time they believe families shouldn’t go without a hot meal.

If you’ve been to their restaurant along Hwy. 16 in Watson, you’ve likely seen the ‘Wall of Hope.’ The wall is typically filled with what appears to be receipts, but they’re actually meal tickets that have been paid in advance. Anyone who is hungry and doesn’t have the means to pay for a meal can take a ticket from the wall and eat without worrying about how to pay.

“They come into the restaurant … they let us know they’re in need and that they’re hungry,” Javi Ortiz, owner and manager of Papi’s Fajita Factory, said. “They sit down at a table and then they just order food, and the food is already prepaid by these tickets that we have over here on the wall.”

It’s a tradition that Ortiz and his family have done in other restaurants they have owned and brought to Papi’s two years ago.

“Our perspective, the way our parents raised us, is that not everything in life is business,” he told UWK. “We want to help as much as we can people that are in need. We’ve all been through a tough crisis or tough times in our life, and if we can help people, at least give them a hot plate of food, and sit down and make their troubles go away, at least for the time they’re here, we want to do it and we want to help them out.”

Ortiz says the restaurant matches every ticket that is purchased. “I tell everybody, every penny helps, even if it’s $1 or $2, or even if it’s a beverage, like a Coke or something. A small queso, every single dollar they want to donate to this great cause, really helps the community.”

Giving back is easy, Ortiz says. “We incentivize everybody that has a phone to help us spread the good word of the Lord and let the people know that in case they’re hungry, we will feed them. We will help them out in any possible way that we can.”

You can contact Papi’s Fajita Factory in Watson at 225-271-8720 to donate to the Wall of Hope. You can also contact the restaurant via Facebook.

Giving back goes beyond the Wall of Hope for Ortiz and Papi’s. They also give back to local churches. Patrons can write down the name of their church on their ticket, drop it in a box on the way out, and the restaurant will give back 10% of the proceeds to the church.

“A lot of people thought it was something amazing, very positive. They started seeing us more as a part of a community that wanted to help versus just business owners that wanted to make money. Since we’re in a position where we can help and outreach the community, we decided that in every one of our restaurants there’s going to be a wall of hope. Just to help out the community, help everybody that needs, no questions asked.

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