Posted: July 30, 2020 | 10:00 a.m.
By Rodney Robinson
PRINCE GEORGE, Va — Luis Pedraza, the owner of Luca’s Restaurant, remembers times when he was 7-years-old in Mexico. He used to help his grandmother with corn and other tasks around the yard. His grandmother used to give him a lot of advice about life. He always helped and always stayed positive.
“I’m always a believer that I can do it, no matter what it is,” Pedraza said.
Pedraza came to America around the age of 13. He started out working as a dishwasher as a teenager. He continued to progress and ultimately started running the kitchen. Pedraza points to his upbringing and growing up poor as reasons why he gives back.
“Does not mean because I’m here, I don’t remember about this anymore, it’s still on my heart,” Pedraza said.
The first COVID-19 case reported in Virginia was on March 7, 2020, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Due to the increasing demand for food and supplies, Luca’s restaurant began distributing free meals to the community on March 19. They delivered food twice a week up until the end of May, according to Pedraza. The last month was only once a week, as they began to deliver more to hospitals and areas in Hopewell. Luca’s Restaurant gave about 800 total meals to families in the community over that span, according to Pedraza. Pedraza stresses that he wanted to give back to the community as they have supported his businesses for years.
“Giving the community a couple of meals to me is nothing, I think it’s just a little bit of what they gave me,” Pedraza said.
In addition to free meals, Pedraza began collecting items such as face masks, hand sanitizers and other cleaning supplies. He sold it back to the community as a way to help pay and keep all of his employees. For a short time, Pedraza closed his restaurant Morelia. He was able to bring employees over from Morelia to Luca’s. However, as people began asking for Morelia to reopen, he was able to do so.
Currently, Virginia is in Phase III. Pedraza points out that there isn’t “much difference” between Phase II and Phase III. Luca’s is still operating under Phase II guidelines, until COVID-19 risks lower. Expenses are higher, such as the purchase of masks and other materials. However, Pedraza continues to stay positive.
“Money is replaceable,” Pedraza said. “Being happy, being able to help people, that made me more happy than money.”