National City Restaurant Owner Pays it Forward to Front-Line Workers

The owner of El Nuevo Milenio in National City knows from personal experience just how hard health care professionals work to keep people safe

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There are a lot of feet standing on the front line against the coronavirus.

Tuesday, a National City Mexican restaurant owner said thank you to all of them by picking up the tab for every doctor, nurse, and first responder who showed up for breakfast and lunch.

“I want to give back a little bit,” said Jose Luis Navarro, who has owned El Nuevo Milenio for more than 25 years. “I’ve been helped by first responders.”

Navarro said a few years ago he spent three days in the intensive care unit at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. He vividly remembered the care he received from Juan Hernandez in particular.

“I ended up in the hospital and he helped me,” said Navarro as a steady line of cars went through his drive-through. “He’s the one who helped me for a long time.”

“When I got the call from Jose telling me about it, I was in shock,” said Hernandez.

Navarro said Hernandez guided him through his recovery, but Hernandez couldn’t believe the business owner wanted to feed all of his coworkers.

“‘Are you serious?’” Hernandez recalled asking Navarro. “'This is what you want to do?’”

Hernandez is not the first person some think about when they hear “front-line worker.” He’s a Sharp Chula Vista financial counselor.

Hernandez said he told Navarro to focus on his health and recovery. Then they could navigate his bills.

“They’re not just a medical record number. They’re people,” said Hernandez.

Navarro never forgot and when he could, he paid Hernandez back. Navarro simply included all of Hernandez’s friends as well. It didn’t matter where they stood on the front line.

“It feels good,” said Hernandez. “It feels good just to know that working for Sharp makes a difference.”

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