Heroes Crowdfund Elderly Chicago Street Vendor’s Retirement

Joel Cervantes Macias took a spin in his car through an area of Chicago called Little Village on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. While in the neighborhood, he saw something that affected him deeply. It was an elderly man, struggling to maneuver a heavy push cart.

The man was 89-year-old Fidencio Sanchez, who’s pushed that cart around Little Village for almost a quarter of a century. He sells Mexican popsicles – or “paletas” – for $1.50 apiece. Macias bought 20 of them on the spot and paid with a $50 bill, for which he refused to accept any change. He also snapped a photo of Sanchez and the cart.

Macias put that photo up on his Facebook page that same evening, along with a sentiment that said “I respect this man to the fullest!” He really wanted to do more, though, and that’s when his friend Joe Loera suggested Macias set up a GoFundMe page to help Sanchez. Macias did so the next day.

“It broke my heart seeing this man that should be enjoying retirement still working at this age,” Macias wrote on the campaign page. He shared the link to the GoFundMe page on Facebook, and that’s when things got interesting.

“I set (the fundraiser goal) for a modest $3,000 and in 54 minutes, to be exact, we already reached that,” Macias told The Chicago Tribune. “Like my brother told me, ‘That picture speaks 1,000 words.’ I think if I wasn’t lucky enough to take that picture, I don’t think it would’ve had the response that it did,” Macias said.

No doubt Macias is right. The photo of Sanchez stooped over and pushing his little cart breaks your heart. Knowing that he’s been doing it for 23 years makes it even harder to take. To top it all off, Sanchez and his wife recently lost their only daughter.  They’re now raising her two children themselves. Life has not been kind recently, until now.

“A lot of people knew him,” Macias told The Chicago Tribune. “After I put it on Facebook, people started inboxing me and they were like, ‘I know that gentleman, he’s always around town.’ I should’ve expected it because he sells all across the 26th Street area. If it touches me, I should’ve known it touches everybody else who sees him.”

joel cervantes macias

Joel Cervantes Macias, the man who established a fundraising campaign for Mr. Sanchez. Photo credit: Joel Cervantes Macias Facebook page

Yes, Sanchez should be home enjoying his golden years, not pushing a heavy cart along the street for $50 a day. It turns out at least 8,500 people agree.

First, the campaign collected $3,000 in under an hour. By the end of Sept. 9, that amount had ballooned to $100,000. At the time of this writing, three days later, the donations stand just shy of $194,000.

Macias’ original Facebook post about Sanchez has been shared over 400 times. The fundraiser page has been shared on social media an incredible 68,000 times. Even the folks who run GoFundMe were impressed with the immediate response this campaign achieved.

“They seen [sic] how he’s struggling to pull the cart, Macias told The Chicago Tribune. “He looks like he’s suffering, like he’ll never give up … they put two and two together, like they need to do this to survive.”

Sanchez now knows about the generosity of thousands who care about him, most of whom he’s never even met. Macias caught up with him at church on Sunday, Sept. 11, and told him about the GoFundMe campaign. To say Sanchez is overwhelmed is to put it mildly. He’s about ready to put away that cart now.

Joe Loera, the man who suggested doing a GoFundMe campaign.  Photo credit: Joel Cervantes Macias Facebook page video screen capture

Joe Loera, the man who suggested doing a GoFundMe campaign. Photo credit: Joel Cervantes Macias Facebook page video screen capture

“Well, seems to me like it won’t be necessary anymore and I will be able to rest more at home,” Sanchez told The Chicago Tribune through his granddaughter, Dulce Perez. “It means a lot, and the changes will be that there will be no need for me to work, and we will have help in all aspects; like getting better clothes and things that will improve our life at home.”

Watch a video that Macias uploaded to his Facebook page after opening the fundraising campaign at this link.

To appease naysayers who worry that Sanchez won’t actually get all these donations, Macias says he’ll do a live video when he makes the presentation so everyone can watch the happy moment Sanchez gets his money. Watch his Facebook page for updates on the campaign and the presentation.

This is how a couple of good Samaritans can change a man’s life in the span of a single weekend. Maybe this accomplishment will inspire you to do something similar. All it takes is to care about your fellow human beings — and to decide you can do something to help one.

Photo credit: ”Relief for Fidencio the Paleta Man” GoFundMe page


William C.
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

Philippa Powers
Philippa Powersabout a year ago

Sometimes we get something right! Blessings to both!

Marie W.
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

federico bortoletto
federico bortolettoabout a year ago

Grazie della condivisione.

Henry M.
Henry Mabout a year ago

The power of community.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer1 years ago


Jennifer H.
Jennifer H1 years ago

Heart warming story. I wish him the best of retirement. People can have a heart when a need arises. Thanks everyone.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O1 years ago

If America's taxes do not support the people, it seems to me that poor people are not paid enough to be taxed for more, and rich people are not taxed enough.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O1 years ago

I find it extremely worrying that a man of 82 who has worked all his life is not entitled to and receiving an old age pension sufficient to meet his basic needs. In Ireland your pension starts at 66. This will probably rise as people are living longer. But the pensioners have other entitlements such a rent allowance, healthcare, free medications, electricity allowance, TV licence, travel on public transport. What has gone wrong in America?