Willie Ortiz of East Hartford, Connecticut, had a long day on the streets collecting scrap metal in his old van to later sell. But when 7 pm comes around, Ortiz makes his way to the back of an auto body garage to meet up with some friends.
Past all of the broken down cars and rusted metal scraps, 75 year old Ortiz carefully carries over a massive amount of cat food to the back of the garage. Once Ortiz gets there, he is greeted by ten cats that are eagerly waiting for his return.
Ortiz is an immigrant from Puerto Rico, who held many different jobs including school bus driver, mechanic and welder for a local hospital. As he got older, Ortiz spent his days searching for scrap metal he could sell to produce income. Located in East Hartford, Ortiz his house is full of two things, scrap metal and pallets of cat food he orders in large volumes.
With stacks and stacks of cat food filling his home, one may wonder why this man has dedicated so much energy and money into feeding the stray cats on the streets every night.
“I do this because I know no one likes the cats. I see them, and I see they need help,” Willie explained.
Oritz’s began feeding the cats in 1995 when he walked past the garage and noticed a hungry, stray cat rubbing it’s body against a customer in a plea for attention. Heartbroken by the helpless hungry cat, he decided he would make it his mission to make sure these cats never went hungry again.
“People were pushing it away, and I could see it needed help. So I said to the Lord, ‘I know these cats can’t understand my accent, but I need to do something,” Ortiz stated.
Ortiz began feeding the cats behind the Hartford Hospital while he was working there, and when one of his coworkers saw what he was doing, he donated $40 to the cause. Ortiz slowly began to feed cats all over the city. Local animal-care groups noticed his actions and would offer him tips and advice as he continued to drive his mission forward.
“People ask me why I feed them every day, or tell me I feed them too much. You eat every day, no? You get three meals; they eat once every 24 hours,” Ortiz explained.
Every day, with love in his heart, Ortiz makes a whopping 14 stops in East Hartford, Clay Arsenal, Upper Albany, and Downtown in order to help feed an estimated 70 stray cats.
Willie has undoubtedly saved the lives of many stray cats around Hartford, and he has no plans of stopping.
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