89-Year-Old Paletero Who Stole the Internet’s Heart Receives a $384K Check For His Retirement Fund

Lead Photo: Collage by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
Collage by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
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Since Joel Cervantes Macias first posted about the elderly paletero struggling to push his cart in the Little Village area of Chicago, the story has reached so many corners of the world. People across 52 countries donated nearly $400,000 on GoFundMe so that Fidencio Sánchez and his wife, Doña Eladia, could live out their golden years in comfort. After the death of their only daughter, Fidencio came out of retirement to support his wife and grandchildren. Many recognized that the 89-year-old deserved better. On Wednesday night, Joel handed Fidencio and Eladia a jumbo $384,000 check that signals a new beginning for them.

The two, surrounded by media, answered questions about their future plans and what these donations meant to them. “I find myself happy and thankful,” Fidencio said, adding that this wasn’t always the case. After Fidencio gave a shout out to people who donated and to those who have helped them adjust to this change, Doña Eladia also thanked their bosses for giving them work even at their age. It’s hard to watch and not get teary-eyed/full-on weep.

Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune
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Though initial reports said Fidencio planned to continue working and wanted to donate money to his church, at Wednesday’s press conference, he said that his body can’t handle it anymore. He also said the money will help his family. He hopes to buy a house and wants to treat himself to a hearing aid, too. Throughout the press conference, Fidencio struggled to hear reporters’ questions.

While many people opened their wallets for this family, there was also a lot of concern. First, people worried that the money might end up in Joel’s hands instead of Fidencio’s. And second, they worried that others would take advantage of them. Joel attempted to prove he was trustworthy by talking about his business and his own father. He’s also been incredibly transparent. The GoFundMe page has 10 updates, including videos that show the couple at a lawyer’s office.

Joel and Jose Loera, who’s also behind the largest GoFundMe campaign in Illinois history, are now going to celebrate. They’re hosting an event at the Club 858. It’s a free event to thank those who supported the campaign. “Come with love in your heart,” the event page reads.

Check out a video of Fidencio and Eladia receiving their checks: