Every night Willie Ortiz, a retired soldier, school bus driver, mechanic, and welder at Connecticut’s Hartford Hospital, packs his old mini-van floor to ceiling with cat food and sets off on his rounds.
He makes a total of 16 stops across the city, feeding 68 stray cats in all. For the past 22 years, this quiet, humble man has not missed a single evening of caring for his feline friends.
It began in 1995 when Ortiz witnessed a hungry stray begging for food outside his friend’s auto body shop. People were shoving the cat away, refusing to acknowledge its pleas for help. Ortiz began feeding the cat and soon discovered several stray colonies throughout Hartford also in need.
The monthly food bill for nearly 70 kitties is about $600. Ortiz also traps and releases feral cats, seeks veterinary attention for any sick ones, provides them with vaccines and spay/neuter surgery, and collects kittens to be placed into foster care and adopted out – the costs certainly add up!
In order to continue his nightly mission, 76-year-old Ortiz spends his days collecting scrap metal to sell – whether rain, shine, snow, sleet, or hail. He makes anywhere from $20 to $60 a day searching out, hauling, and selling the scraps to recycling plants. Community members who have heard about Willie’s wonderful cause often call him with metal donations.
Ortiz does humbly accept financial donations, but refuses to use the money for anything except food and care for the cats – he won’t even accept money towards gas for his van! A friend of Mr. Ortiz has set up a GoFundMe page in his honor where you can learn more about this incredible man and make a donation towards his mission.