Making burritos is how Ronnie Mesa shows he cares for people.
Over the last five years, the Visalia resident has given burritos to those in need — including homeless people, according to his wife, Samantha Mesa.
Burritos are affordable, easy to make and give away, she explained.
This year, Ronnie wanted to “do something bigger” to help others, she said. He started the #KeepVisaliaWarm campaign on Facebook to raise money to feed and clothe those without food and shelter.
With help from friends and family, Ronnie purchased and distributed breakfast burritos, hot chocolate, and more than 100 bundles of blankets and clothing to homeless people in Visalia on Dec. 20, according to Samantha.
“It was pretty awesome for him to do this,” Samantha said. “I hope we can make it a bigger thing in the future.”
Burritos and bundles
The number of homeless people increased in the northeast Visalia neighborhoods Ronnie and Samantha each grew up in.
“For (Ronnie), it’s a big deal,” she said. “I didn’t struggle. I had a good childhood. Whereas for him, it was challenging.”
“When he sees the homeless, it hits him harder, especially seeing kids struggling,” she added. “That pushes him to teach our kids there are people out there who don’t have a decent life and to help them.”
It took about three weeks for the Mesa family to compile the 115 bundles they gave away to those living outside near north Santa Fe Street and along St. John’s River. Both areas have a high population of homeless people.
Ronnie went to the flea market to find blankets, beanies, socks, gloves and more, according to Samantha, who tied the bundles together with ribbons. She also included handwritten index cards with Bible verses.
Before long, the Mesas and their friends were preparing burritos.
“The guys were outside preparing the meat,” Samantha said. “The girls were inside stuffing (the burritos) and wrapping them.”
Eight friends saw the #KeepVisaliaWarm hashtag on social media and asked how they could help. Some donated on Venmo.
Others were there to assist when Ronnie filled his El Camino truck to the brim with the bundles and food. Anything left over, the friends put in their cars, according to Samantha.
On the morning of Dec. 20, Samantha stayed in the truck with the couple’s 1-year-old and reminded everyone to stay safe due to COVID-19.
“I felt like I was being a party pooper,” she said. “(Ronnie) wore a mask and gloves. He took a table in the El Camino (to help distribute the items). It was grab-and-go, with no contact.”
The group was met with some skepticism from those they encountered, Samantha said, but overall, the reactions they received were positive.
“One guy was crying. He said, ‘These strangers are doing more for him and than his own family’,” Samantha explained. “Every single one said, ‘Thank you!’”
It took more than two hours for Ronnie and his friends to distribute the items. They also stopped in other Visalia neighborhoods in which people lingered outside, Samantha said.
“I know everyone has their opinions about the homeless and the way they live,” Samantha said. “They are humans. If you can, try to give back.”
“Any little thing counts,” she added.
Contact education reporter Kristan Obeng at KObeng@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @KrissyObeng.
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