Karissa Rodriguez hands out meals to furloughed workers and others at Walk-on’s Sports Bistreaux and Bar on Saturday in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — Although the event was supposed to end by 5 p.m., the Walk-On’s staff here continued serving free meals to the community. At that point, they had given out 900 meals Saturday evening.

The event, known as the Furlough Kitchen, aimed to provide more than 1,000 meals to furloughed workers.

“It was a great success,” Walk-On’s Director of Operations Isaac Garza said. “I feel very honored and privileged to be a part of this event that was sponsored by Walk-On’s.”

Furlough Kitchen is a nonprofit operation sponsored by Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux in Edinburg; the operation provides furloughed workers a free meal.

Alex De Leon holds a sign to entice passers by as employees hand out meals to furloughed workers and others at Walk-on’s Sports Bistreaux and Bars on Saturday, April 18, 2020, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

The operation stemmed from Walk-On’s Game On Foundation. Originally focused mainly on youth athletes and facilities, the company’s organization shifted to help with a greater need: workers whose jobs were affected by COVID-19.

Furlough Kitchen first began at the Walk-On’s in Baton Rouge — the company’s first location. Now, according to Garza, the company expanded Furlough Kitchen to more cities, such as those in Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas. The plan is to hold a Furlough Kitchen in every Walk-on’s location.

Garza spoke with the company’s president, Scott Taylor, about bringing Furlough Kitchen down to the Rio Grande Valley. According to Garza, Taylor asked him if they should hold a Furlough Kitchen in Edinburg.

“I said ‘Yeah, that would be great, I think everyone needs something positive to happen,’” Garza recalled telling Taylor.

Although Furlough Kitchen originally focused on catering furloughed workers, Garza said it was recently expanded to include everyone. Whoever showed up, regardless of the number of people in the car, received a free meal.

“We just want to give back to the community and be able to be there for them in these times we’re going through,” Garza said.

On Saturday afternoon, Garza noticed vehicles were lining-up an hour earlier than expected as staff waived signs about the free meals for traffic on Trenton Road. The meal consisted of a pulled pork sandwich with a side of waffle fries.

Under a tent, staff set up a table where Walk-on to-go bags were filled with plates for vehicles.

Emergency workers wave in gratitude to employees as they hand out meals to furloughed workers and others at Walk-on’s Sports Bistreaux and bar on Saturday in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)
Employees hand out meals to furloughed workers and others at Walk-on’s Sports Bistreaux and Bar on Saturday in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Garza said he wants to host another similar event, but explained Furlough Kitchen is funded by donations.

“We definitely want to keep doing this as much as we can,” Garza said. “We are also relying on the donations coming in.”

Regardless of the amount donated, Garza emphasized that no donation is too small, every bit helps. For more information about donating to the foundation, visit walkonsgameon.org.

“We’re very happy with the turn out,” Garza said. “It was a win-win situation. Not just for [the community], but for us too.”