Fund-raiser for elderly Chicago street vendor raises $136,000 in just one day

Mr Fidencio Sanchez, 89, retired two months ago but had to return to work after the death of his only daughter in July.
Mr Fidencio Sanchez, 89, retired two months ago but had to return to work after the death of his only daughter in July.PHOTO: JOEL CERVANTES MACIAS/ FACEBOOK

An elderly street vendor in Chicago got an unexpected boost from members of the public, when an online fund-raiser set up in his name pulled in more than US$100,000 (S$136,000) in donations in one day.

Mr Fidencio Sanchez, 89, has spent years selling the fruity popsicles called paletas around the predominantly working-class and Latino neighbourhood of Little Village.

His pushcart and paleta supplier Gustavo Gutierrez told US news site DNA Info that Mr Sanchez retired two months ago but had to return to his trade after the death of his only daughter in July.

Mr Sanchez's wife Eladia also used to sell paletas but had to give up the work due to ill health.

The viral fund-raiser to help the Sanchez family was set up on Friday (Sept 9) by Mr Joel Cervantes Macias, who runs his own restaurant in the area.

Mr Cervantes wrote that he was driving through Little Village, where he himself had grown up, when he saw Mr Sanchez struggling to push his cart by the road.

"It broke my heart seeing this man that should be enjoying retirement still working at this age," Mr Cervantes wrote. He bought 20 paletas for $50, but decided to also share Mr Sanchez's story with the community.

Although Mr Cervantes set an initial donation target of $3,000, the fundraising page immediately attracted a flood of donations from across the United States, with some donors giving as much as $1,000 at one go. There was also, however, worry that Mr Sanchez, who has been robbed in the past, would attract the attention of criminals.

"Some people are still worried that this campaign for Don Fidencio can't be true, but I can assure you that it is," Mr Cervantes said on his personal Facebook page, using a title of respect for Mr Sanchez.

He said that he hoped to have a news crew from Spanish-language channel Univision present to document the exchange when he passed the cash to Mr Sanchez.

The campaign spread online and offline, with Mr Sanchez learning of the community effort when he attended church services on Saturday.

In a video interview posted to Facebook, Mr Sanchez said in Spanish that he felt that the fund-raiser was "a very good thing" for him and his wife.

"People were very happy to see the numbers (on the donation page) keep going up higher and higher," Mr Cervantes explained to the couple.

Mr Sanchez told Mr Cervantes that he was grateful for all the help and did not plan to continue working.