The Salsa Grill sheds light, giving toys and a holiday meal

This holiday season most restaurants were wrapped up in holiday bookings and catering orders, however head chef and co-owner of Zapien’s Salsa Grill & Taqueria, Marco Zapien, and his team were busy organizing a toy drive with local churches St. Hilary and St. Mariana.

For most of December “The Grill” collected unwrapped toys for both Pico Rivera parishes to distribute to struggling families within the community this holiday season. This week, they delivered 78 toys to each church.

In exchange for the unwrapped toys every child (12 and under) ate free and every adult received 50 percent off his or her meal.

“We don’t want to get caught up only in the entertainment and shopping this holiday season,” said Zapien. “That said, we want to be a part of making Christmas special for those in our community who are in need, especially those with children.”

According to Marie Martinez, the business director at St. Mariana an estimated 250 families reach out to the parish for food and other goods during the holiday season.

“These donations really make a difference,” said Martinez.

The Salsa Grill’s toy drive ended this week, leaving enough time for distribution to the parishes and families in need. However, Chef Zapien didn’t stop giving.

A specific menu was created for El Monte resident, Adali Gutierrez and his family for Christmas Eve dinner. Zapien will personally deliver the meal Christmas Eve at 2 p.m., which includes an assortment of hand-made Tamales, Chili Colorado and mini desserts.

Gutierrez, 20, lost his parents in a drug cartel shooting in 2008 and cares for his four siblings by working two jobs, but still struggles to pay rent, utilities and food.

“I read about Adali’s struggles, and I had to do something,” said Zapien.