Editor’s note: This article by Port St. Joe High School freshman Avery Pharr was based on personal interviews with Eligio Angel and Angela Parker conducted Oct. 6. A participant in the Gifted Student program, Pharr’s essay was submitted as part of an essay contest honoring Florida Hispanic Heritage Month.
When you think of an angel, you probably don’t think of a 40-something year old Mexican immigrant who owns a restaurant, but that is exactly what the residents of Port St. Joe think of Eligio Angel.
Opening in 2005, Mr. Angel’s Peppers became the most successful restaurant in Port St. Joe. Home to delicious Mexican dishes, brightly-colored ethnic decorations, and jovial atmosphere, it isn’t hard to imagine why. Peppers quickly grew popular with locals and tourists alike. In fact, Peppers contributes greatly to tourism in the area, and local children come in to get help on their Spanish homework. But none of this would be possible without entrepreneur Eligio Angel, who learned how to make all this happen through hard work and determination.
With a desire to give back, Mr. Angel not only donates each year to local softball and soccer teams, he also established a scholarship at Port St. Joe High School given to the student with the highest average in the Spanish classes. It all started in 2009 when Mrs. Parker, the PSJHS Scholarship Coordinator, reached out to Angel about possibly starting a $100 scholarship; he gladly agreed, and over time proved to be even more generous than that. By 2015, he was giving the school $500 for the annual scholarship.
Mrs. Parker explained, “In 2015, when I went up to pick up the yearly check, he had written it for $500! I asked him if he meant to do that, and in his quiet way, he confirmed that he wanted to give more.” Then in 2020, Angel once again lived up to his namesake and doubled the amount he had given for the past five years.
Mrs. Parker relayed, “Then during the pandemic, he not only gave his regular scholarship, he doubled it to $1,000.” When asked why he did this, Mr. Angel explained, “I like to give back. I appreciate the town, the school, and the kids who come to the restaurant to eat. I feel I can donate, so I do.”
In fact, Mr. Angel and Peppers donated to the community during one of the worst events to ever happen to my town. In 2018 Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle and devastated Port St. Joe. People were without power and running water and had to scrape by on whatever they could find. Angel decided that it was time to give back to the community that had given so much to him. He offered hot free food to those who needed it, contributing greatly to the morale of the people.
A couple years later, Angel was rewarded for his generosity as Peppers outgrew its original location and moved to a bigger, nicer building. He decorated the inside with a modern take on the standard Hispanic decorations, symbolizing a new and better time after Hurricane Michael.
Eligio Angel and Peppers provide not only great food but also hope for the future. This is why the community of Port St. Joe calls him Angel.
This article originally appeared on The Star: The Angel of Port St. Joe