Strangers donate $136,000 to elderly street vendor who plans to pay it forward

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An elderly popsicle vendor who's set to receive more than $136,000 in retirement donations from kindly strangers says he will donate a chunk of his unexpected windfall to people in need and will set aside another part for his grandkids.

In the meantime, 89-year old Fidencio Sánchez will continue selling paletas from his pushcart.

Don Fidencio became internet famous over the weekend when a local man posted a picture of the octogenarian pushing his cart down the street in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. The picture of him hunched over his heavy popsicle cart was turned into an online fundraiser to scratch together some "retirement" money for "Fidencio the paleta man."


A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign goal was set at $3,000. Three days later, on Monday morning, the campaign had already raised $136,000 from more than 6,000 donors.

That's more than enough money to spread around, says Fidencio Sánchez.

“I’m going to give part of it to the church here, part of it to the church in my native land, some of it will go to my grandchildren, and certain people that I see have a need,” don Fidencio told the local Univision affiliate in Chicago.

Joel Cervantes Macias, the guy who started the GoFundMe campaign, says he snapped the picture of Sánchez because he wanted to show how hard people work. The photo generated so much compassion on Facebook, he decided to turn it into a crowdfunding campaign.

“It broke my heart seeing this man that should be enjoying retirement still working at this age,” Cervantes wrote on GoFundMe.


Don Fidencio’s story seems to have really strike a chord during a contentious presidential election, where candidate Donald Trump has built his campaign on demonizing Mexican immigrants. Don Fidencio represents everything that is wrong with rhetoric.

Don Fidencio said his daughter, an only child, passed away on July 23, saddling him and his wife with a new set of expenses. Their daughter had been helping the family pay rent and utility bills, but since her death Sanchez and his wife have to pick up the bills and the cost of caring for their grandkids.


Don Fidencio's wife said the donations coming from so many people will make life easier for them.

“Now we see that we have many sons and grandsons,” Doña Eladia said, raising her chin and pointing her lips towards a crowd of people listening to her interview with local reporters.


Doña Eladia also used to sell paletas but hurt her shoulder and can no longer push the cart. So now she sells candy.

But Don Fidencio says he'll keep his paleta cart in circulation as long as he can.


“I have the motivation, I have the strength and I feel better [working] than when I’m at the house,” he said

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