Restaurant opens its doors for free lunch

By Tony Parra

April Fool’s Day is full of surprises but for guests and hosts of the Christmas lunch at the El Rancho restaurant Christmas was full of pleasant surprises.
The Garcia family opened their doors to El Rancho restaurant for a free meal on Christmas Day.
The El Rancho restaurant is a four-way business partnership between father Ruben Garcia, mother Sara Garcia, grandmother Josie Garcia and son Joe Garcia. The concept was derived from Joe, who brought the idea to his family.
“It’s been great,” Ruben said. “We had people waiting outside this morning. We’ve had a mixture of singles and families. They’ve all been grateful. They have complemented us on the lunch. The volunteers have done a great job. We had families of the employees help us out.”
The Christmas lunch attracted local residents as well as people from thousands of miles away, who recently moved to the community.
“I didn’t even know they were doing this,” Fred Casillas, of Clovis, said. “I was surprised. It’s like a gift from Santa Claus. I was looking for a place to eat and I was ready for the waitress to bring me a menu. She told me it was free and it was a buffet-style lunch.”
There were 40 to 50 guests who showed up within the first 90 minutes, Joe said.
“I’m happy it all came together so well,” Joe said. “It’s been wonderful. It’s really a blessing to see the smiles on the people’s faces. I see a lot of new faces. They’ve provided us with warmth and a Christmas atmosphere.”
Casillas was attending mass at St. Helen’s church when he saw vehicles, parked next to the El Rancho restaurant.
“Wow, what a Christmas gift from them (Garcias) to us,” Casillas said. “There needs to be more people like the Garcias in the world. There’s too much greed.”
The Waggoner family was doing some Christmas moving and with many restaurants closed for Christmas, they found out about the lunch through the newspaper.
“We came more than 1,000 miles just to eat here,” Waggoner joked.
Charles Waggoner’s wife Diana and son Zach enjoyed a Christmas lunch and a break from moving.
“We might not have had a meal if it wasn’t for this,” Diana said. “We didn’t have any food in our house because everything was packed.”
Charles Waggoner is going to be an education professor at Eastern New Mexico University. He and his wife are moving from outside of Springfield, Ill. Zach is attending Arizona State University and was helping his parents move.
“It’s really something different for me,” Joe said about holding a Christmas lunch. “We’ve had people come up to us and tell us that we made their Christmas, a good Christmas this year.”