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$19,000 raised for food cart vendor who was beaten, robbed

High school junior Brenda Correa, with the help of Belmont-Cragin United, started the GoFundMe campaign to make up what Gonzalo Garcia lost when he was attacked.

Brenda Correa, 16, a student at ITW David Speer Academy, left, watches as Gonzalo Garcia, center, is handed a check for nearly $19,000 by Alonso Zaragoza, who runs the Belmont-Cragin United Facebook page, near the scene where Garcia was attacked by students while he was selling food earlier last week. Correa and Zaragoza both helped raise over $18,000 through GoFundMe to help with costs related to Garcias attack.
Gonzalo Garcia, center, received a check for nearly $19,000 Friday from Alonso Zaragoza, who runs the Belmont-Cragin United Facebook page, and Brenda Correa, 16, a student at ITW David Speer Academy. Correa and Zaragoza raised the money after Garcia was attacked and robbed.

At the same spot Gonzalo Garcia was attacked just over a week earlier, Garcia was told Friday afternoon that a GoFundMe campaign raised nearly $19,000 to help him.

Garcia, 58, looked up and was quiet for a moment as he digested receiving the gift.

“Gracias a Dios,” Garcia said. Thank you, God.

Garcia was selling food from his cart near a bus stop the afternoon of Dec. 2 in the 5200 block of West Grand Avenue when he was beaten and robbed by several students. They took about $300, and Garcia was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

The attack happened outside Brenda Correa’s public charter school, ITW David Speer Academy. The 16-year-old said she hadn’t “been able to sleep” knowing Garcia hadn’t received justice. She started the GoFundMe with the help of Belmont-Cragin United, a community Facebook page, and set a goal of raising just $600.

The campaign exceeded its goal within hours.

“It’s been crazy,” Correa told the Chicago Sun-Times Friday afternoon. “I didn’t think it would get this big.”

Garcia plans to send most of the money to his family in Veracruz, Mexico, he said.

Alonso Zaragoza, who runs the Belmont-Cragin United page and helped organize the GoFundMe, said he believes Garcia would be eligible for a U visa, a nonimmigrant status for victims of certain crimes. Zaragoza said he’ll connect Garcia with Mijos, a Chicago organization that helps immigrants, to apply for the visa.

Gonzalo Garcia walks with his food cart near the scene where he was attacked by students last week.
Gonzalo Garcia walks with his food cart near the scene where he was attacked by students last week.

Friday afternoon, Garcia brought his cart along so a teacher at Speer Academy can repair it and install a lockable drawer to store money. If Garcia is attacked again while selling, he wouldn’t have large bills on his person, Correa said.

People also have offered job opportunities for Garcia if chooses not to return to selling from his cart.

Garcia said he doesn’t yet know if he will retire his cart.

“I have opportunities,” Garcia said in Spanish. “I like to work. ... I’m going to continue working.”