By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Ruben Estrada is living his dream…again.After recently retiring, the 65 year old Estrada wanted to surround himself with joy, try something a little different, and most of all give back to the community. It wasn’t long before he found the answer in the form of starting up a family business, “Empanada Master,” a food truck, delivering much more than authentic, savory Latin cuisine.
Tuesday, during a frigid late afternoon on First Street, Estrada and his crew could be spotted providing that “something extra” special, as they handed out free empanada and specially prepared rice dinners to a host of families at a nearby shelter. As festive holiday music resonated from the truck, Estrada’s crew also handed out hot chocolate, coffee, Christmas cookies and other refreshments.
For Estrada, who has always put community at the forefront in what he does, the “giving back” with his food truck business only felt natural. After all, it’s a passion that traces back to his high school days when he had a similar food business at a construction site with his uncle at age 17. It was a busy time, but one Estrada would not have sacrificed for anything.“I would get up around 4am and get everything needed for the day-bread etc- and set up the truck, and then I would go to school my senior year until noon, returning to work at the truck until around four or five at night,” recalled a smiling Estrada. “Those early days were really happy ones that I have now returned to, going full circle.”
That sphere was not only assisted by his family Tuesday, but also a triangle of other help, including Wilkins Ministries International as well as the 7 x 7 Ministry. Everyone involved had giving back as a mission close to their hearts, so it wasn’t long before the free meal idea was born.
“This is an honor for us to serve out community,” said Antonio Rivera of 7 x 7 Ministry. “It gives us an opportunity to support the people we love so much.”
That returned love and gratitude could be seen all over the faces of people from Project Life who turned out to not only partake of Estrada’s delicious Latin food, but experience the priceless smiles and selflessness of his family as well as work partners’ during the holiday season.
“It’s really good to have all of this here,” said Clara Johna of the City of Newburgh. I really like empanadas a lot and my son loves the hot chocolate and candy; I’m very grateful they came here.”
This article originally appeared in the Hudson Valley Press.