Springfield is fond of the food at Papo's Café, but you need more than just good food to earn laurels in this challenging year, which is why Papo's is the recipient of the giving back category.
Local restaurateur Will Hoecker opened the doors of Papo's Café on the west side of Springfield in the spring of 2018. He has a passion for creating restaurants that fit seamlessly into the local scene, and the menu boasts flavorful foods within a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Will named the café in memory of both of his grandfathers – Thomas Armstead and William Hoecker, Sr. These "Papos" were very involved within the central Illinois community that they were proud to call home.
Building on that community involvement, when the pandemic struck this year, restaurants were among the hardest hit. Despite the initial shutdown, Papo's cared enough to think about the greater needs of our community.
"We all have to be together right now to get through all this," said Hoecker. "At the end of the day, we are all humans and we have to be humans to each other and figure out what we can do to help."
With that in mind, despite the economic impact to his own burgeoning food empire, Hoecker set out to make sure the needy in the community didn't have to worry about their next meal. Through a coordinated pay-it-forward program and partnerships with Brickhouse and Mel-O-Cream, Papo's gave away over 600 meals in the parking lot of St. Patrick's School to those in need. Meal recipients didn't have to pay a penny, thanks to the generosity of Papo's, its philanthropically minded customers and others that Hoecker got involved.
Beyond the pay-it-forward program, Hoecker has been a generous community sponsor through Papo's and the other restaurants he's involved with. For all these reasons, this is a well-deserved award.