On Christmas Day, most people are spending time with their loved ones. But for first responders, a holiday can be just another day on the job.
This year, Azteca manager Jaime Monje volunteered to provide Christmas meals for Federal Way Police Department officers and staff working on Dec. 25. Monje and his team made meals for 40 people — a taco bar serving two shifts of officers.
“I love to be part of the community,” he said. “That is the reason I believe our business is strong. I believe in that thoroughly. We want to be part of the community, and want to support whenever we can and as much as we can.”
Monje, who has worked for the company since 1999, is the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for December.
The past two years have been difficult for many people, and especially business owners. Monje’s business is at the newly relocated Azteca restaurant in Federal Way, 2020 S. 320th St. The restaurant moved as a result of the Sound Transit Tacoma Dome Link Extension plans, which cut through the former location’s lot near 23rd Avenue South.
Moving their location in the middle of a pandemic was a huge risk, he said, but Azteca has been in Federal Way for over 40 years. He knew the restaurant would make it.
Monje has a total of 33 employees, including his wife and daughter, and works hard to connect with every customer who visits his restaurant — even if just for a quick hello and to ask how their meal was.
This sort of connection results in dozens of loyal customers. He holds his staff to a high standard, but said he also knows people are human and humans make mistakes.
“We all try and all my staff, they always try,” he said.
The proof of vaccination or negative coronavirus test mandated by the county has been a hindrance, with some customers getting upset, leaving the establishment or refusing to support their business, he said. He and his staff are following the rules in order to make it through the pandemic, he said.
In addition to the meals, Monje donated about $250 in gift cards to Federal Way nonprofits this month for various gift baskets, raffles and other prizes.
Being able to support local law enforcement this Christmas something Monje was more than happy to do, he said.
“I have a huge respect for [officers], especially during the holidays and at night,” he said. “They’re out there, doing their best for us.”