Late at night, after the visitors left his family’s home, leaving flowers, food and prayers behind them, Luciano Manuel Andia sat down at his father’s desktop computer.
He clicked to a GoFundMe page that had been set up to help his family in the aftermath of his father’s death. He read comment after comment from friends and strangers about how his father’s story had resonated with them. His father, Luciano Mariano Andia, was killed May 9 while he waited in his car to start one of his jobs at the Dollar Tree. A man has been arrested and charged with his murder with officials saying robbery was a likely motive.
For Andia’s 40-year-old son and 36-year-old daughter, Jacqueline Rosciano, the outpouring of support has been overwhelming.
“More than 160 people have given to us,” said Andia’s son hours after his father’s funeral. “Not just money. They also post messages.
“There’s even a Venezuelan girl who really touched my heart,” said Andia, whose family moved to Cary from Venezuela 10 years ago. “She didn’t buy anything at Dollar Tree. She was touched by this.”
To date, more than $10,300 has been donated to the Andias, thanks to a co-worker at the American Sexual Health Association, where Andia had worked for years, who set up the page. The Andia family hasn’t decided how they’ll use the generous donations that are coming their way. Luciano and his daughter supported the family financially. His widow, Trinidad, didn’t work.
“That will help my sister and my mother to carry on,” Luciano Manuel Andia said.
The Andias aren’t the only ones going through a similar experience, and they’re not the only ones the community has rallied around.
In the past month, our area has seen its unfair share of tragedies.
Derek Davis of Holly Springs was doing what he loved – running – when he was hit by a car last month. On April 27, after a week when doctors had hoped he would survive, the 37-year-old man succumbed to his injuries.
His page has racked up $46,660. Just a week ago, an anonymous donor gave $1,000, joining the more than 580 people who have given money to the memorial fund that will help out Derek’s wife, Amanda, and their four children. Derek, who worked at SAS Institute, was the sole provider for his family.
And then there’s Paul Dang Pham, a 9-year-old Cary boy who was killed riding his bike May 5. The family of one of his former teachers set up his memorial fund. By now, I shouldn’t be surprised to see more than 650 people have donated $40,816 in 12 days, far past the original $30,000 goal.
“We kept extending the goal, and we kept hitting the numbers,” said Moss Withers, a real estate agent from Cary whose wife, Kendall, taught Paul at Mills Park Elementary for two years.
With checks coming in offline, nearly $50,000 has been raised, he said.
Withers is chairman of the board of the Kraft Family YMCA, where Paul took part in the after-school program, and is active in his church and other civic groups. He knew he had the connections to get the word out about the memorial fund, but even he didn’t realize how much social media could help the cause.
Last week, Withers said Paul’s father, Loc, expressed “unbelievable gratitude” for the donations. After paying funeral bills and other expenses, the rest of the money will go to creating a college fund for Paul’s older brother, John, who is 12.
Helping others in need isn’t new. Churches, schools and civic groups organize barbecue plate sales, runs and auctions for those who are sick and their families all the time.
But Withers, who knows the world of fundraising, said he thinks this type of online donating is going to become more of the norm. People like to contribute to those who will see the immediate impact of the donations, he said. They want to give to people, or the stories they connect with.
Mainly, they want to know they can make a difference, and for some, giving any kind of money can feel like a small but meaningful gesture in an often hopeless situation. For Withers, being able to help the Pham family in the aftermath allowed him to work through his grieving, he said.
“I feel like I’ve done something,” he said. “That’s not the reason I did it. But it helped me feel like I didn’t look in the other direction. I think other people felt that way, too.”
In a time of mourning, in a time of disbelief that something so terrible could happen to their loved ones, the messages and the ever-increasing totals on the fund-raising pages really do help. Rosciano said it would take her a long time to write thank-you cards, and she’s even more appreciative of the strangers who come up to her and say nice things about her father.
The donations remind the Andias, and countless other families who abruptly have lost someone, that their loved one was more than just a victim.
“It’s not going to bring Paul back unfortunately,” Withers said. “Hopefully it will set up long-term success for his brother.”
The Andias want others to know that Luciano was a kind man who made an impression on everyone he met. He was a great father, a man who guided his children to make good decisions and to study hard.
And he was a man who liked the simple things, Rosciano said, like eating two bags of tangerines a day, Yankee scented candles, reading and watching sitcoms, and ironically, old crime shows. He was married to Trinidad for 47 years, and they dreamed of traveling together.
“It’s not about the money you earn, or nothing like that,” said his son, his voice cracking with emotion. “It’s the people’s hearts you touch.”
Banov: 919-460-2605; Twitter: @JessicaBanov