Generous gesture

A $1,500 tab has been opened at El Alegre Mexican Restaurant in DeForest by local resident Sam Bates that allows first responders, healthcare workers, military service members and teachers to eat free at the restaurant. All they have to do is show their work identification and their meals will be paid for, as long as the funds last.

COVID-19 has been tough on everybody.

That goes double for small businesses and restaurants, as well as those working on the front lines of the pandemic.

DeForest resident Samantha Bates wanted to do something to help out, so she opened a $1,500 tab at El Alegre Mexican Restaurant for first responders, healthcare workers, military service members and teachers. Lunch is on her, at least until the money is gone. All they have to do is show their work identification.

The response has been rewarding.

“It’s felt amazing,” said Bates. “Going in to drop off fliers at the local sheriff’s department in Windsor, at the police department in DeForest, the fire and EMS … the look on their faces, where it’s like, ‘Are you serious?’ That means the world to me.”

Bates is a regular customer at El Alegre. Seeing owner Brian Trejo is a highlight of her visits, and with restaurants only operating at 25% capacity, they need help. Selecting El Alegre as the recipient of the generous gesture was an easy choice.

“At El Alegre they treat you like family, and Brian always has a smile on his face,” said Bates, who works as an insurance agent at Country Financial.

Bates and her husband, Nick, reside in DeForest with their two young children, Mia and Beau. They moved to the village in 2016, before spending a year in Minnesota and then moving back to the area in 2018. The decision to return to DeForest was an easy one.

“It was a no-brainer,” said Bates. “We love the community and the school district.”

Allowing COVID-19 frontline workers to eat free on her dime is a way of giving back. She knows teachers are stressed having to carry out instruction virtually. First responders, healthcare workers, police and fire department members, and military personnel are all dealing with increased pressure brought on by the pandemic.

Bates wanted to do something “for everybody working in the community to keep us safe.”

Bates said Country Financial has supported her idea, providing matching funds.

This is the first time Bates has ever done anything like this. The reaction to it has been positive on social media and with people reaching out directly. She also said that Trejo and his family have been “so appreciative and thankful.”

Bates is hoping others follow her lead. Even giving front line workers a thank you would help, she said. Bates said they need support from others in the community more than ever.

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