Co-workers rally behind waiter who once lost $2M in market crash
Phillipe Mendoza is known as the guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Just ask anyone who works with him at Little Rhein Steak House in downtown San Antonio.
“I'm a heart patient,” Lester Devold, a server said. “And Phil brings me to and from work as often as he can. He doesn't allow me to walk to my car which is four blocks away."
“I've tried to give him money a few times and he'll just waive it away and say save it for what you need," Yvette Palafox, another server explained.
“He'll wait 1 hour, 2 hours sometimes, just to make sure that everyone is safe and they get home," Erin Saenz, who works in guest relations said.
Mendoza is recognized as someone who’s treated people like second family at the restaurant over the last 8 years. The 64-year-old credited the restaurant for helping to turn his life around after losing everything in the market crash. He used to have more than $2,000,000 in real estate and assets before 2008, according to Mendoza.
“When I first walked in here, I felt as part of the family,” he explained. “I was given a chance to work here."
Both staff and customers said they witnessed just how humble and kind he can be. Rey Arrieta, a long-time server and captain of the wait staff, recalled a time when he saw Mendoza’s altruistic behavior with a customer who accidentally left money behind.
"He dropped his money,” Arrieta said. “A $100 bill. And he started walking and Phillipe stopped, grabbed the money, and gave it back to him."
Mendoza’s co-workers turned to Fox San Antonio’s CASH FOR KINDNESS to help honor, recognize and award him. He had no idea Palafox nominated him. She helped break the news to him when he arrived for a shift. Nearly the entire staff was there for the big surprise.
“Surprise!” they shouted when he entered Little Rhein Steak House. Palafox greeted him at the entrance and walked him into the room where everyone secretly waited.
“I called Ryan because I wanted him to know, and I wanted San Antonio to know, how great and kind you are," she told him while holding his hands. "From all the rides that you do. You never accepted gas money. All the things that you do around the restaurant. You're like family. There's great people out there, and you're one of them. And, I just wanted you to know that.”
“Thank you!” he said with a surprised look on his face.
The people in the room erupted in applause.
“What was your reaction when everyone said ‘surprise?’” Wolf asked him.
“That they were kidding!” he said with a smile as people laughed. “Pulling a prank. We're always pulling a prank around here."
“Today... we're giving back to you, Phil,” Wolf said. “Put your hand out for me."
Mendoza counted the money, provided in part by Allwell, in his hands.
“$800, $900, $1,000,” he said with tears in his eyes.
“I don't know what to say,” Mendoza said while looking down at the floor. “I'm short on words.”
“How will this help you?” Wolf asked.
True to fashion, Mendoza responded, “It'll put gas in my car.”
Everyone laughed once again.
“It'll fill my tank," he repeated with a smile.
Click here to nominate someone for the $1,000 CASH FOR KINDNESS award.