An older man didn't let bad weather or health concerns stop him from completing his mission for over 20 years. The veteran loaded his rusty truck with food every day—but who was he feeding so devotedly?
If you are fortunate to go to bed each night with a full tummy, you are one of the lucky ones. Countless mouths wait to be fed every day, but it isn't always possible due to circumstances.
Good Samaritans worldwide dedicate their time to caring for the needy who cannot survive independently. One such Samaritan was a former soldier, mechanic, welder, and school bus driver.
An old man sits on a bench with a cat. | Source: Shutterstock
HE HAS A HEART OF GOLD
An old minivan symbolized hope for a large and starving population in areas around East Hartford, Connecticut. The vehicle driver was an old Puerto Rican native with a heart of gold.
He started his noble cause in 1995 and collected scrap metal to fund his project. Despite rainy or snowy conditions, Willie Ortiz always tried to feed his friends in the evenings.
PEOPLE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND HIM
Ortiz perplexed many people with his actions. They didn't understand why he sacrificed his comfort for the good of an unexpected group of recipients.
The elderly gentleman explained:
"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."
ONE WOMAN NOTICED HIS NOBLE CAUSE
Ortiz's mission may have gone unnoticed if not for the help of Kathleen Schlentz. She started a GoFundMe page to assist Ortiz, and after she shared his story, netizens were eager to offer their assistance.
When Schlentz learned more about Ortiz, she was surprised by his kindness. She couldn't believe he was working so hard at his old age and expressed: "He works hard physically, and I don't know how he does it."
HE HELPS A VULNERABLE GROUP
People are often shocked when they discover why Ortiz scours towns in his vicinity for scrap metal. He sells it to buy food for a vulnerable group close to his heart—a group of stray cats.
Schlentz revealed that he had worked hard to get the animals spayed, neutered, and vaccinated. Additionally, he went on nightly feeding missions, only missing evenings when the cats could be endangered.
Old man petting a cat. | Source: Shutterstock
A HUMBLE MAN
Ortiz initially felt sorry for the stray cats when he noticed people kicking and pushing them around. He knew it would be impossible to adopt all of them, so he decided on another course of action—feeding them every day.
Schlentz also noted that the older man was extremely humble. She added:
"He doesn't ever toot his own horn. Some people will say, 'Why do you spend your money on cats?' And he'll say, 'Because they're cats.'"
THE STEEP COSTS
Sadly, the cat populations have grown exponentially, and Ortiz could not feed all of them. It cost around $600 to feed 70 cats per month, and the older man struggled.
Schlentz added that it costs around $90 per cat for the operations and vaccinations. Despite the massive spending and continued need, Ortiz was unwavering in his dedication.
Thankfully, Schlentz also started a campaign to raise funds for his worthy cause. She stated:
"Donations made to this campaign will be used to help keep the cats fed, and secure his mission for years to come."
HIS LIFE'S MISSION
Ortiz didn't think feeding stray and feral cats would become his life's mission, but the husband, father, and grandfather loved the cats and hated seeing them suffer. He fed around 19 cat colonies and endeavored to keep them all healthy.
Schlentz stated that Ortiz's cats were doing well, and their life expectancies had increased dramatically because of his care. She explained:
"The life expectancy for a feral or stray cat living on the streets is about 5 years. Willie has cats he has been feeding for 15 years and longer."
HE IS AN INSPIRATION
Schlentz sang the older man's praises and explained that his work and positive attitude inspired her despite the sadness and pain he saw every day.
"Knowing him has made my life better, just by doing what he does so effortlessly. He is a loving, caring, and honest man who believes very strongly in God and all of his goodness."
In 2018, Schlentz told netizens that Ortiz was in the process of making Connecticut Feral Cats an official non-profit organization. She thanked their supporters and credited them with ensuring his mission continued for years to come.
AN INJURY KEPT HIM FROM THE CATS
In 2020, Schlentz told online community members that her friend struggled with an injury. Doctors discovered he had broken bones in his foot, and Ortiz believed it resulted from dropping scrap metal on himself months before.
He had to wear a boot and stay immobile for an extended period and found it heartbreaking to "let go" of the cats. Schlentz and her husband took over the feeding duties and were later helped by a member from Ortiz's church.
By 2021, Schlentz provided another update and revealed that Ortiz was able to visit and feed the cats again from March onwards. It was also the year he turned 80, and despite his age and injury, he showed no signs of slowing down.
Elderly man cuddling with a cat. | Source: Shutterstock
THE ONLY REAL SOLUTION
Ortiz goes above and beyond to help the cats, making shelters for them during snowy seasons and harboring pregnant felines at his friend's house until they give birth. He is also dedicated to finding forever homes for as many cats as possible.
However, he knows the only real and long-term solution is to slow down the growth of the colonies. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, he has received generous donations to aid his heartwarming mission.
Everyone has a purpose, and for Willie Ortiz, it was taking care of furry felines. Click here for another beautiful story of a man who helped sick babies for decades. His heart of gold will inspire you today.