PORTAGE PARK — More than 90 friends, customers and strangers have rushed to the aid of Steve Vrettos, who endured a house fire and a loved one's death in the span of less than two weeks, all without taking a break from managing Jeff's Red Hots, 3901 N. Cicero Ave.
A GoFundMe page had raised almost $3,400 for Vrettos by early Tuesday. It blew past its $2,000 goal within hours of launching on Friday, according to Six Corners Business Association director Kelli Wefenstette, who organized the campaign.
"Steve is just such a fantastic and important member of our community, and we want him and his family to know that they have all our love and support behind them," Wefenstette said. "It's been astounding how many people have stepped up. We've even heard from people who don't even live in the city anymore, but said they remember Steve and how great his food was.
A fire severely damaged Vrettos' home in suburban Niles on Dec. 24, forcing him to move into a hotel with his wife and adult daughter, he said. And on Thursday, his wife's father died in Greece at age 90.
"It's been tough dealing with the pain of so much loss all together, but that's life," Vrettos said. "Everyone is doing OK, and we'll move on from it."
Vrettos has been "dumbfounded" by the amount of support he's gotten from customers and neighbors after both losses, he said.
"Every day, people are walking into the store offering their condolences and asking us if we need anything," Vrettos said. "That kind of moral support is what gets you through tough times like these. It's amazing."
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