El Charro owners donate stolen money to Hospitality Helps

Former waitress returns money, restaurant giving money to local group

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Employees at Charro Steak in downtown Tucson spend their afternoon chopping steaks that their guests will later enjoy at dinner.

For these employees, work weeks can be rigorous.

"You're always hearing when are you going to get a real job," explained Gary Hickey, the executive chef at the restaurant. He claims some of his employees work fifty-hour weeks. He said after all is said and done, he sometimes works eighty.

"It's a labor of love. It's physically intense, mentally straining, and sometimes things happen that you have no control over."

This is a reality for the service industry. Often times, these restaurant workers and kitchen staff have no insurance. If something happens to them, life gets hard.

"A lot of them, if they can't walk - they can't work. They have no income source," explained Raynu Fernando. He helped start Hospitality Helps in Tucson. This is an issue his nonprofit wants to eat away at. Fernando was looking to help the culinary world in their time of need.

The work Hospitality Helps does came full circle.

After a woman anonymously returned money with interest that she stole several years ago from El Charro downtown, the restaurant's president Ray Flores said he hadn't stopped thinking about her.

"Was this what she intended? Was this okay to her? I think she did it out of all the goodness possible you could imagine," Flores told Tucson News Now.

El Charro is paying it forward, donating all $1,000 of the returned money to Hospitality Helps.

It was Monday night at Knife Fight, a competition among chefs in the Tucson metro. These events happen every Monday night for eight weeks. The first one of this season was on August 6.

They fund Hospitality Helps, and helped make a difference in the life of one restaurant employee in his time of need.

"He had gotten attacked. He couldn't work, he wasn't able to buy groceries and work. That kind of thing," explained Fernando.

Thousands were raised through the Knife Fight fundraisers to pay for his recovery.

Fernando and Hickey are now looking forward to using this money from El Charro to help others like him in the future.

To take part in any of these fundraisers yourself, you can find 'Knife Fight' on Facebook.

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