Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Leonel Ruiz, front, social distances with Madera Community Hospital staff from the accounting and health information departments after donating nearly 600 masks on May 21.
When Leonel Ruiz was given the chance to give back, the first place he thought of was the place he grew up — Madera.
After a call to The Madera Tribune, Ruiz lined up a donation with the Madera Community Hospital and gave them 540 facemasks on a trip back to his hometown Friday.
“My mom raised a good guy so I have to pay it forward,” Ruiz said. “I can’t ever forget where I came from. I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for home.”
Ruiz, who grew up in and lived in Madera until 2007, currently lives in Corona Hills. His original job was stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so he volunteered some of his time.
“I do music festivals throughout the country like Coachella, Stagecoach, Miami Ultra, the Super Bowl and events like that,” he said. “Unfortunately, the coronavirus canceled everything for us until next year February. I had a mutual friend that had a sister that owned Lotus and Luna, the supplier for the facemasks. They needed help shipping facemasks to different people around the country. People were ordering like crazy and they needed help. I volunteered for about two days. We shipped out thousands of masks throughout the country. We were busy. Once I was ready to go, she gave me about 1,200 facemasks to do what I wanted to do with them. I thought, what better place than give back home.”
Ruiz wasn’t done donating, however.
“I went to Fastway Chicken, one of my favorite spots for food,” he said. “I gave facemasks to people in line and went inside the store and gave 15 to the staff. I went to Chavindas Taqueria, which is my favorite place out of all of them, and donated some to them, I went to a dialysis place who took good care of my dad, but they couldn’t accept the masks. Then, I went to Camarena Health Center and gave them 75.”
From there, Ruiz still had more places he wanted to go.
“I couldn’t forget about the farmworkers and laborers,” he said. “I took a drive to Eastin Arcola where I went to grade school, and saw a group of farm workers and gave them some. I kept driving to Visalia to visit family and donated to them, their neighbors and their favorite market.”
Ruiz donated about 1,000 masks during his visit to the Central Valley and still has some that he will donate. Although the masks aren’t of the paper variety, it still serves the purpose and Lotus and Luna changed from a clothing supplier to a facemask maker and distributor.
“Lotus and Luna is a clothing company that had to stop making clothes,” he said. “They decided to make their clothes into facemasks. They turned pants, shirts and other stuff into facemasks. They offered me to take some so I took some with me and gave back to my hometown of Madera.”
Ruiz is a member of the SoCal Packer Bakers, a fan group supporting the Green Bay Packers, and will donate the remaining masks to Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“We are involved with the Green Bay Packers,” he said. “Our group president is in Green Bay and he is going to donate to Green Bay or to even the team.”
Even before he made a visit to MCH, the first place Ruiz went to was home to surprise his mother, who he hasn’t seen in seven months.
“She ended up cooking some Mexican mole for me, which was delicious,” he said. “I gave them some masks, as well. My mom and sister are still in Madera.”
Ruiz said he just likes to do what he can to help people out. He has nieces and nephews in Madera and does what he can to support them and purchase athletic equipment for them because he didn’t get the opportunity to have that support when he was younger.
“I will never forget where I came from,” he said. “I love to help out my friends in Madera and help them work with me. I love to help out my friends. I have to help my people.”