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Community rallies to support gardener shot while working in Burbank neighborhood

After gardener Martin Hernandez got shot in his foot while working in a Burbank neighborhood earlier this month, his wife couldn’t fathom putting up the Christmas tree her family had picked out the day before.

She and her husband, who live paycheck to paycheck, wouldn’t be able to afford to buy presents for their four young children, as the shooting left them both out of work.

However, by Christmas Eve, through the kindness of strangers, police officers and neighbors, Dennise Hernandez had more than 100 gifts to stack under her tree.

The family spent Thursday morning tearing open gifts at a local McDonald’s, where a group of Burbank residents had amassed dozens of gifts, including books, shoes, clothes and school supplies.

Burbank residents Cindy Caddel-Isaac, who donated part of her retail company’s proceeds this month to purchase gifts, and Rochelle Thielen organized the meeting. Separately, Thielen launched an online crowd-funding campaign for the family, which has garnered nearly $1,800 in donations from 58 people.

“It just hit home for a lot of people,” Caddel-Isaac said, adding that people were dropping off gifts at her home up until Thursday morning.

The day before, the family was invited to the Burbank police station after employees — both sworn and civilian — had also collected presents for the family.

Dennise Hernandez said she brought a reusable shopping bag to the station, thinking she’d be able to fit the gifts inside.

When she walked into the police station and saw dozens of uniformed officers and a room full of presents — which included bikes, games and stuffed animals, as well as cleaning supplies and grocery store gift cards — neither she nor her husband could hold back their tears.

The gifts barely fit in their car, she said.

“To see that they had so much respect for us, it was touching,” Dennise Hernandez said Thursday.

Martin Hernandez is recovering in a wheelchair, and it will be several months before he’ll be back on his feet.

He’s impatient to go back to work, and even asked his boss if he could at least trim the roses for their clients, his wife said.

“I can do that with my hands,” he said, according to his wife. Meanwhile, she’s looking for a night job to continue to support the family.

The shooting, which also left a 67-year-old Burbank man hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds to his abdomen, remains under investigation.

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Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter: @atchek


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