An outpouring of public support has generated roughly $4,000 for 81-year-old Antonia Becerra, who was close to retiring after working 44 years as a waitress before losing her life savings to an overseas scam, police said.
From a high school sports team organizing a collection drive in her honor to a financial planner setting up a donation account, the response to Becerra's plight has been swift since the Glendale resident's story became public this weekend.
Among the many people pitching in to help get the longtime Taix restaurant waitress back on her feet is Patrick Abram Sr., an assistant head football coach at Garey High School in Pomona.
“I just lost both my grandmothers and just to see something like this,” he said, adding that Becerra's story immediately resonated with him.
Becerra reported at least $40,000 in losses to Glendale police after falling victim to a lottery scam in which con artists convinced her that she had won $2 million and a new Mercedes Benz.
They told her to sell her car and to transfer the money to them to secure her prize. But any amount she sent them never seemed to be enough until she finally ran out of her life savings.
She estimates her losses could be $60,000 to $65,000.
Instead of retiring as planned, Becerra must now continue working as a waitress at the landmark French restaurant Taix in Los Angeles, where over the decades she's amassed a loyal customer base.
Abram has begun working with students and school administrators to collect funds for a new car for Becerra.
Abram has never eaten at Taix or met Becerra, but he said, he and his fellow coaching staff are trying to teach students “valuable life lessons.”
“We are going to try to do something pretty big,” he said, adding that “helping our fellow man or woman when they are down is one of the most rewarding things you can do.”
The thought of having to start over at the age of 81 drew more than just an investigation from Glendale police officers, who set up a fundraiser to solicit donations for Becerra's rent and getting a new car.
Police have received numerous donations and calls from people wanting to help, Glendale police Det. Jason Ross said.
Financial Planner Alan Haft said Becerra's story “stuck a chord” with him because he works with seniors who have retired.
He immediately created a fundraising account on the website indiegogo on behalf of Becerra that has raised $200 so far.
Police asked anyone who is interested in donating money to visit glendalepoa.com.