Our story is well told on why we feed the needy on Thanksgiving Day, but for those of you who haven't heard or read about why The Aguirre Family has opened its doors for the past 29 years to feed the needy on Thanksgiving Day. Please Enjoy our story. (As told by Oscar)
In 1984 I was 13 going on 14, Mom was working with my Aunt who owns El Noa Noa Restaurant in West Denver, Dad was working construction, and I was the oldest of 4 (at the time.) We lived in North West Denver, The NORTHSIDE! (Now the Highland's)
The recession of the 80's had devastating effects on downtown Denver and our neighborhood at the time Interest rates were in the in the upper 20 percent, Unemployment was in the low teens, and Inflation was creeping up.
Dad was working construction but because of the recession he would work 2-6 months at a time and then get laid off, forcing us to go on government assistance for periods of time. Mom was helping our aunt and uncle in their restaurant while we were at school as a way to make ends meet, mean while dad would go out and look for work or help my uncle fix things around the El Noa Noa.
An opportunity presented itself to buy our current building located off of 33rd & Tejon for 187K, Mom and Dad looked at this as an opportunity to get off of government assistance and put food on the table for the 4 mouths they had feed and another mouth on the way. We had a family meeting with mom and dad telling us that this was an opportunity for the family to get out of the situation we were in. We would empty our piggybanks and our savings accounts, and use our house as collateral in order for us to get our building. mom and dad were taking a huge gamble put all we that we had into a business that had a high percentage of failure in the first year:They were essentially saying either we sink or swim.
When the offer was accepted the terms of the purchase were that the owners would carry the note of the building and that we would pay $1700.00 a month mortgage with a Balloon payment due in July of 1985; If we didn't make the mortgage or the balloon payment, we would lose the building, the house and our lives savings: it was all or nothing!
We took possession of the building in October of 1984 and we had to update the restaurant so we can open. Mom and dad did everything possible including borrowing monies from our family members. Keep in mind that Mom and dad had no formal business experience; they had 4 mouths to feed and one on the way, I was 13, Virgilio Jr was 7, Eric was 3, and Linda was a year and a half: with Esmeralda on the way. People told my mom she was crazy opening a restaurant in the Northside, a neighborhood that was considered the "Hood," or the "Barrio," with no business experience, she was crazy to open a restaurant in the hood but it was our neighborhood!
On January 17th, 1985 we had our final inspection and passed, mom and dad asked the city inspector when we could open? His reply was NOW! And at that moment mom and dad opened the doors but just and she flipped the sign she said a small prayer: "Lord if you help us make the balloon payment we will feed the elderly and disabled on Thanksgiving Day."
Our first few months were not too good for Rosa Linda's and the Aguirre family; we were open 7 days a week, Friday and Saturday's till 3:30 in the morning, Dad had been rehired at the construction company and was working 5-6 days a week 8-10 hours a day, and then come to the restaurant and help with what needed to be done. My uncles and aunts were a big part of our early days. They too would work other jobs and then come help my mom. Me being the oldest was immediately thrust into working after I went to school did my homework and helped my brothers do theirs. Things were not looking well when the month of May came around, it looked like we were not going to make the balloon payment due in July, and we were going to be homeless. Mom repeated her prayer and in June of 1985 Westword magazine came out with the Best of Denver, it said Rosa Linda's Mexican CafÃ© had the best burrito in Denver, Stuffed with Succulent shredded beef, that melts in your mouth, topped with a rich garlic, cumin flavored, green chile: it was worth the trip to Northwest Denver "The Northside."
We had no idea that we had received that award until a lady tells my mom that she had heard that we had the best burrito in town. Mom's reaction was that she believed we did and thank you for compliment... The lady's response "No it's true it says here in Westword!" That was moms' prayer being answered, we made the balloon payment, we kept our house, and that first year we fed 250 meals to the elderly and disabled; in 2012 the community served over 6,000 meals to Denver's Needy, in 2013 our numbers went slightly down and served 4500 meals, This year we hope they go down again but we can only tell after the event is done. All we know is that there are pleanty of families out there who need a little bit of help, Lets hope we can accomidate them.
We have been asked how many people do you serve. We don't know because we allow more than one serving. Dad always told me that on Thanksgiving Day we always have more than one plate: why should we deny that to our guest
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