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New Mexico Restaurants Help During Ruidoso Disaster

Ruidoso, NM  – Sunday morning, July 27, as members of the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Restaurant Association were departing from around the state for a meeting in the town of Ruidoso, word came of the flash flood disaster which had hit the community late Saturday night, July 26. The remains of Hurricane Dolly passed over the area dumping its bucket.  The steep canyons in the mountains of central New Mexico, while perfect for hillside cabins with beautiful views, are also perfect for quick and dangerous floods with little or no notice.  With rains totaling over six inches in an 18-hour period, the gentle babbling brooks in the bottoms of the canyons took on the rage of the meanest white water rivers.

As the waters tumbled out of the mountains, nine of 10 bridges were simply swept away, stranding over 600 people and causing the evacuation of 300 more.  Any house near yesterday’s stream was also taken by the swollen storm waters. Some buildings were cut in half, some were gone completely.

New Mexico’s restaurant community swung into action, providing assistance for public safety and transportation personnel, disaster relief volunteers and victims.  Public sector employees working overtime late in the night had limited access to food.  Stranded victims could not reach retail stores and volunteers were busy setting up relief operations.

Restaurant owners and managers Ed Tinsley, Tom Hutchinson and Jerry Harrell, among others, spearheaded efforts to develop a food supply chain involving area restaurants.

Tinsley, a local resident of Lincoln County, was on site at the Emergency Operations Center mid-day on Sunday, July 27, just hours after flooding began, to volunteer. Tinsley was tasked by the Disaster Relief Team leader and Fire Chief, Tom Gavin, to head up the coordination of food and lodging. Immediately, Tinsley and the K-BOB’S Steakhouse team of Bill Scott, Manager, and his staff, assembled and delivered 600 meals from Noon until 10:00 PM, while simultaneously coordinating lodging at local churches for displaced residents and tourists. On Monday, July 28, Tinsley gave the emergency order for an additional 500 + meals and by mid day the first of these meals were being airlifted to the stranded residents of the Upper Canyon.  “Restaurant owners are in the business of serving people every day, so when disaster strikes we step up to the plate every time. My community has been very good to me, my family, and our K-BOB’S Steakhouse over the last several decades, so this was an easy decision to help with whatever was needed whenever” said Tinsley.  By 5:30 PM Monday, donated meals for evacuees and relief workers were arranged with over 1500 meals actually delivered by late Wednesday, July 30.

“When I realized we had an immediate need for 500+ meals more for the week, and K-BOB’S was so stretched, I knew just the guys to handle the additional needs.” said Tinsley.  Tom Hutchinson, New Mexico’s National Restaurant Association representative and owner of La Posta Restaurant and Jerry Harrell, general manager of Double Eagle Restaurant both in the southern New Mexico village of Mesilla were quickly assigned to visit Ruidoso restaurants and gather donations.  “Tom and I have a unique relationship.” said Harrell, “We are both in the same small tourist town, both seat about 250 people, right around the corner from each other.  He sells Mexican food and steaks and I sell steaks and Mexican food.”

Over 1,000 of the meals were donated by Tinsley’s K-Bob’s Steakhouse and were personally delivered by Tinsley with the other 500 handled by interns from Tinsley’s Congressional campaign staff.  “In every restaurant, when we explained the need, the only questions were ‘What can we do?’ and ‘When do you want it” said Hutchinson.

“We were really touched by one person in particular.” said Hutchinson.  That was Luz Chavez, owner of Ole Tacos.  When the men entered the restaurant, they did not realize the business only took up a small space in the building.  Ms. Chavez did not hesitate when asked for 30 burritos and offered 30 meals for the next day as well.  Hutchinson stepped into the kitchen and realized it was the size of a normal closet. Things were systematically and strategically placed for one cook to be within one step of everything needed to produce a large menu of tacos, enchiladas and burritos.

Ms. Chavez said,” These people have kept me in business for 30 years.  I can certainly give back 30 burritos.”  Harrell and Hutchinson were so moved by Ms. Chaves’ sweet generosity of spirit that they returned and purchased 60 more burritos for their own donation to the cause. Both men expressed happiness at being able to contribute.

Those restaurants donating were K-BOB’S Steakhouse, KFC, McDonalds, Scholtzskys, Subway, Pizza Hut, Ole Tacos, Chileos, Keep on Smokin BBQ and Dominos Pizza, all from the Ruidoso community.  Walmart donated bottled water, soft drinks and other miscellaneous supplies.  The Nazarene Church camp and Gateway Church of Christ provided shelter for many of the evacuees.