CHICAGO — Supporters of a 90-year-old man who spends hours each day selling popsicles have raised more than $136,000 to donate to him.
Fidencio Sanchez has spent years selling paletas — a type of popsicle — on the Near West Side, pushing a cart for hours each day and typically making just $50-$60, said Gustavo Gutierrez, who provides the paleta cart to Sanchez.
Sanchez, who is about 90 years old, retired two months ago, Gutierrez said. He wanted to "take it easy" and relax with his wife. But he returned to work soon after his daughter died, Gutierrez said, taking advantage of the last few weeks of summer before sales slow in the fall and winter.
"He's a really hardworking gentleman," Gutierrez said. "He's always giving. He already got the advice from everybody to take it easy and stop doing it. He just doesn't want to. He's like a little kid. He wants to get going."
Earlier this week, Joel Cervantes Macias became inspired by Sanchez while buying paletas, he wrote on GoFundMe. He bought 20 popsicles for $50 but wanted to do more. He began a campaign on GoFundMe, writing that he wanted to raise money for Sanchez and his wife.
"Let's all pitch in and help make life a little easier and brighten both of their day," Macias wrote. He and Sanchez could not immediately be reached for comment.
The campaign has raised more than $110,000 in just 1 day. Sanchez, who dedicates each Saturday to going to church, learned of the fundraiser at services, Gutierrez said.
"... He knows, and he's taking it with a lot of love," Gutierrez said. "We're really for this [support] from the entire community because he deserved it."
Macias, who lives in Wisconsin but grew up in Chicago, wrote on GoFundMe that he will use Facebook Live to record him giving the money that's raised to Sanchez. He had originally intended to raise just $3,000.
Gutierrez said Sanchez has spent his entire life selling paletas, going to churches, schools and selling around the neighborhood to the the community. But business can be slow at times, and people worry about his health. Gutierrez has taken to preparing Sanchez's cart each morning, filling it with paletas, so the "paleta man" doesn't have to work harder than he needs to.
"The entire community [of] Little Village knows about Mr. Fidencio because for decades he's always been selling," Gutierrez said. "He wants to continue. Which is great in terms of spirit, but we're concerned, of course, that something could happen to him. So we're trying to make it as easy as possible for him ... ."
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