Burritos N Ribs owner Ana Johnson, along with Iredell-Statesville Schools Coordinator of Alternative Learning Services Mark Vaughn, helped put some smiles on children’s faces Wednesday morning.

For the third year, Johnson and Vaughn organized a holiday gathering for children in foster care, group home residents, women’s shelter residents, and law enforcement personnel.

“This started with her saying, ‘I want to help the community,’ ” Vaughn, a loyal customer, explained. “I was there at the right place and the right time.”

Johnson was inspired to do something for kids who weren’t with their families for the holidays. In 48 hours, the two made it happen.

“My mother would always do it,” Johnson said. “It was a family tradition.”

As a child in Ecuador, Johnson watched her mom, Josephine De Intriago, derive joy from gifting to children.

“My mom always gave dinners and gifts at her pharmacy,” Johnson said. 

So being grateful for the Troutman community supporting her restaurant, she felt giving back was the right thing to do.

Johnson and Vaughn enlisted help from I-SS ESL Director Claudia Jimenez and Principals Eric Babbitt and Robert Little to help out. Troutman’s Rotary Club also assisted.

On Wednesday around 100 people were served breakfast burritos, drinks, donuts, and coffee, with foster children receiving free passes to Zootastic (courtesy of Commissioner Scottie Brown) and treat bags.

Johnson funds the majority of the project with tips from her customers.

“Every year, we say, ‘What’s next?’ ” Vaughn said. “We plan to grow it.”

Kevin Angell, executive director of Children’s Homes of Iredell County, is grateful for the thoughtfulness.

The holidays, Angell explained, are difficult for children who don’t get to see their families. Sometimes their home is not safe, and in some cases the children’s parents are incarcerated or even deceased.

“This helps with the holiday lull of sadness for them,” he said. “It’s a way for us to spend time together and enjoy the holidays. You can’t overstate the power of fellowship. These kids need normal times just like everyone.”


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