Peter Simonetti is raising funds to send Portillo’s to more than 100 currently displaced by wildfires in New Mexico.
Ruidoso is a mountain resort town in southern New Mexico with a population of approximately 8,000. The Associated Press reports that steep, rocky and inaccessible terrains along with high winds are making efforts to contain the wildfires very difficult. A lightning strike on June 4 started the fires.
As of June 13, the Associated Press reports hundreds of residents still cannot return home and 224 residential structures are reported damaged.
Simonetti, of Oswego, has family living in Ruidoso who enjoy whenever they return to the Chicago area. Simonetti realized that Portillo’s ships pre-packaged food throughout the U.S. and decided it would be a real treat to send Chicago-style hot dogs to feed (and also cheer up) those suffering in Ruidoso.
Simonetti’s goal is to raise $5,000, which he hopes will feed everyone who has been displaced for at least one day. He said he’s off to a slow start, but has received some generous donations, and is hoping to raise awareness.
He said he hopes to send the food package this week, but the timing depends on the receipt of donations.
Simonetti contacted Shirley Estes, Owner of Mountain Annie’s Center for the Arts in Ruidoso. The center has been feeding Ruidoso’s evacuees for free for the duration of this tragedy. Simonetti will send the package to Estes for her to distribute.
Estes described the atmosphere of the Ruidoso community:
“The positive is that everyone has pulled together like a family and is willing to help each other with a shoulder to cry on or financial help. The negative is that people are in shock and are devastated by the loss of their homes. We are a small community and a large percentage has lost everything.”
Estes explained that evacuees are being housed at the local high school, in hotels and at a campground. Many are housed for free or at significant discounts. Some are living with family.
“Everyone is opening their doors,” Estes said.
Mountain Annie’s had just opened a café the week before tragedy struck. Estes partnered with the café owners to provide meals and a pleasant atmosphere to the community.
“We wanted them to feel at home - to come and cry, to have a point of contact with their family and friends. We are providing three hot meals each day,” Estes said.
Estes is too busy feeding and commiserating with the people to take count of how many she is feeding, but she estimated 150 attend the evening meal.
Estes said she’s incredibly touched by Simonetti’s efforts to bring food and cheer to her community.
“The fact that people are willing to help means so much. To know that people from Chicago would care enough to send assistance, that blows me away,” she said.
Estes isn’t familiar with Portillo’s, but still felt it would be “super special and a real treat. It would absolutely bring a smile to people’s faces, and probably a few tears too.”
Estes set up a Disaster Relief Fund with Southwest Securities in Ruidoso to make sure that any monetary donations go directly to those in need. To make a donation, contact the bank at (575) 257-1414.