A campaign to raise money to help an 85-year-old Lexington man who works at McDonald’s while caring for his two disabled grandsons has gained national attention and generated tens of thousands of dollars.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the GoFundMe account to help Wendall Gill had raised more than $65,000.
“Everything about this cause has exceeded my wildest dreams,” said Todd Oldfield, who started the effort to help Gill.
Gill’s wife of 68 years, Della, died after suffering an aneurysm at the McDonald’s where Gill works in August, leaving him to care for their two adopted adult grandsons on his own. John Columbia is 33, and Justin Gill is 20. One has autism, and the other has problems resulting from fetal alcohol syndrome.
Oldfield initially had hoped to raise the $27,200 needed to pay off Gill’s van.
That happened soon after the Herald-Leader and Washington Post ran articles about Gill’s plight.
Even the team at GoFundMe kicked in $1,000.
Besides paying off the van, enough money has been raised to pay off the balance of what Gill owed on the Jeep Della drove. The family took the Jeep back to the dealership, but Gill still owed more on it than it was worth.
By paying off those two big expenses, Oldfield, an insurance agent and financial planner, said Gill is out from under a debt load of $1,200 a month. Gill makes about $600 a month working at the Richmond Road McDonald’s, he said.
“You still work, and I’m not sure you need to,” Oldfield told Gill in a video posted on the GoFundMe page. “I know you want to, but I’d rather you be the little old guy that goes in and sits at McDonald’s all day drinking coffee with the people and let somebody else clean it up.”
Besides the online fundraiser, other people have stepped forward and offered to pay for a grave marker for Della, the family’s Christmas celebration and a Wendall Gill Appreciation Party, which is being held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday at Southland Christian Church on Richmond Road.
Oldfield has raised the goal for his GoFundMe campaign to $115,200 in hopes of generating enough donations to pay off Gill’s house, on which he owes $74,000.
“I’m flying by faith here,” Oldfield said Sunday. “I can’t believe the generosity of people and how much they have demonstrated their love for Wendall.”
Oldfield, who has known Gill since he was a teenager working his first job at McDonald’s, hopes the party on Saturday will be well attended by people Gill has served in his 40 years at the restaurant.
“I want 100 people to walk through the door and give the man a hug,” Oldfield said. “Despite having been under-compensated for all these years, he touched a lot of people.”
For those who can’t attend the party but still want to wish Gill well, Oldfield is collecting cards of appreciation and condolence. Cards may be mailed to Wendall Gill, c/o Todd Oldfield, 3408 Crimson King Court, Lexington, KY 40517.
“I’m hoping that we also have all kinds of cards from all over the country,” he said.