UHD's Social Work Person of the Year
Join us as UHD's Social Work Department presents its annual award to Russell Ybarra, of Gringo's Mexican Kitchen for his humanitarian work.
A self-proclaimed “Master Enchilada Roller” and an alumnus of the “University of Hard Knocks”, Russell Ybarra, president and CEO of Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen, Jimmy Changas, Burger Libre, and The Lunch Box, is the University of Houston-Downtown’s College of Public Service —Social Work Person of the Year.
Among the core values he instills within each of his businesses is “Reinvest in team members and the community.” As a result, Ybarra encourages community engagement and contributing to area schools, little league teams and other organizations.
Mr. Ybarra’s is passionate about helping those who serve and have served in our nation’s armed forces. Ybarra supports Camp Hope, which aids veterans with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Last year, he launched the initiative “Every Queso Counts” at both Gringo’s and Jimmy Changa’s.
Within his own organization, Ybarra has worked diligently to support his employees by offering competitive wages and benefits. His companies are implementing a system called Instant Pay, which allows workers to draw a portion of their wages using a debit card within 24 hours of completing a shift. “The payday loan companies are just milking them, and the people that need it the most don’t have access to their wages.” “If you would have told me when I opened this restaurant in 1993 that one day I’d pay for funerals, vehicles, houses and surgeries, I would have never believed you. At the core of it, it’s about our people, which we consider our first stakeholders.”