Customer’s GoFundMe campaign brings in $1,030 for El Patron’s displaced employees
■ By Mary Ann Morris / Editor
El Patron was a community institution on East Florida Avenue in Hemet; it was also Jamie and Jeff Dover’s favorite restaurant. She and her husband frequented the business that morphed from a Chinese restaurant to one featuring Mexican fare, and enjoyed watching its transformation from the beginning.
“We were one of his first customers when it opened,” recalled Dover. “The décor was very Asian, bright reds, etc. Over time, as he had the money to do so, Abel made changes and we all got to experience them as they happened. It was such an interesting transformation to watch.”
When a raging fire destroyed the restaurant just before the Christmas holiday on Dec. 22, the entire community was affected, especially the approximately 40 employees supported by restaurant owner Abel Sanchez.
When Dover heard about the fire, her entire family was heartbroken. When she read about the extent of the damages, and heard that the workers who had always treated them so well were going to be out of work for a while, she took action and started a GoFundMe campaign, which brought in about $1,030 in donations.
Riverside attorney Rosa Elena Sahagun, who also donated $300, volunteered to be the official beneficiary of the money, which was deposited into a trust account until the end of the campaign. The proceeds were distributed equally among the employees Jan. 12 in the restaurant’s burned-out foyer. The weather was cold, wet and rainy, but it didn’t dampen the employees’ attitudes Thursday; every person was wearing a smile and hugs were plentiful.
“It wasn’t a whole lot for each person, but the employees were all so nice and it was heartbreaking for this to happen,” said Dover. “Abel worked so hard and it reflected in his staff. It was my way of thanking them for making us feel at home in the restaurant.”
“It was such a positive spot. It was a business that was successful because of the way it worked. I sure hope they can rebuild.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Sanchez is hopeful, for the community and for his employees, that he can reopen.