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

In the same place, Gonzalo Garcia was attacked a little more than a week earlier, Garcia learned Friday afternoon that a GoFundMe campaign raised nearly $19,000 for help.

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

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

Garcia was selling food from his cart near a bus stop on the afternoon of December 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 couldn’t “sleep” knowing Garcia hadn’t gotten justice. She started the GoFundMe with the help of Belmont-Cragin United, a community Facebook page, and set herself the goal of raising just $600.

The campaign exceeded its goal within hours.

“It was 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 thinks Garcia would be eligible for a U visa, a nonimmigrant status for victims of certain crimes. Zaragoza said he would connect Garcia with Mijosa Chicago organization that helps immigrants apply for visas.

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

On Friday afternoon, Garcia brought in his cart so a teacher at Speer Academy could fix it and install a lockable drawer to store money. If Garcia is attacked again in the sale, he won’t have big bills on him, Correa said.

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

Garcia said he doesn’t yet know if he’ll be retiring his cart.

“I have opportunities,” Garcia said in Spanish. “I like to work. … I will continue to work.