After more than 40 years of working at McDonald’s, 85-year-old Wendall Gill is finally about to retire.
Thanks to a GoFundMe campaign that generated $115,125 in donations from around the world, Gill is now debt free.
He paid off his house on Monday.
On Tuesday he gave his two weeks’ notice at the Richmond Road McDonald’s, where for years he has kept the dining room, restrooms and parking lot neat and tidy.
“I asked our store manager, I said, ‘Now, if I get bored sitting around the house, is there any chance I can come back and work a few days a week?’” Gill said. “She said yes!”
It’s unlikely Gill will spend much time sitting around.
Retirement will give him more time to spend with the two adult grandsons he and his late wife, Della, adopted and raised. Both men have special needs.
Della Gill died in August, after suffering an aneurysm at the restaurant where her husband works.
Gill is now responsible for the family’s cooking, cleaning and laundry. He often takes his grandsons to the YMCA in the evenings, and several mornings a week he gets them up and ready to go to an adult daycare program.
When Gill told his former coworker, Todd Oldfield, who is now a financial planner and insurance agent, about his wife’s death, Oldfield was moved to start the online fund-raising campaign to try to help.
The effort generated national news coverage from the Washington Post, People Magazine and Inside Edition and brought in contributions from all 50 states and 20 foreign countries, Oldfield said.
Initially, Oldfield had hoped to raise enough money to pay off Gill’s van. After that goal was reached, the campaign went on to generate enough to pay off a Jeep that Gill had returned to the dealership but still owed more on than it was worth.
Oldfield stopped accepting donations on Gill’s GoFundMe page last week, when enough had been raised to finish paying off his house.
Other people have stepped forward separately to pay for a grave marker for Della Gill, cater the family’s Thanksgiving dinner and provide their Christmas celebration.
“It’s helped me a lot,” Gill said. “I tell everybody I sure appreciate what all the people done. ...I really don’t have to work if I don’t want. Before, it wasn’t my choice.”
The community has also rallied around Gill to offer emotional support. A Wendall Gill Appreciation Party was held earlier this month, and about 100 people have mailed cards for Gill to Oldfield’s address.
“They’re coming from everywhere,” Gill said, and from people he has never met.
“He gets such a kick out of opening those cards,” Oldfield said, describing how Gill carefully opens each envelope and keeps every one, adding them to the letters he received from Della during their 68 years together.
As for Oldfield, he said that seeing the good that came from the fund-raiser has given him a renewed sense of hope, and he is ready to turn his attention to other people in need of help.
“I never dreamed 30 days ago when he told me the story that just a month later we would have paid off his cars and his house,” Oldfield wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Do you get that? I am more shocked than anyone. This is my weakness. I had lost some faith in humanity and I clearly did not think God would care this much. I never dreamed the right combination of circumstances and support would come together to do any of this.”