A donation campaign has raised thousands of dollars for a Wendall Gill, an 85-year-old man who was left to care for his two grandsons who have special needs after his wife died while visiting the McDonald’s restaurant where he works.
Wendall and his wife, Della, 83, were running errands during one of his days off in late August when they stopped by the Lexington, Kentucky, McDonald’s where he is employed to grab an early morning meal. But when Della went to use the restroom, she suffered an aneurysm. Della was rushed to the hospital, where she would die just days later, a GoFundMe set up to raise money for the grieving widower, explains.
Wendall has cleaned the restrooms and taken out the trash at the restaurant for more than 40 years, and it is where he first met former employee Todd Oldfield. When Oldfield recently stopped by the fast food eatery for a meal, he heard about Della’s death, according to the GoFundMe.
“Wendall is devastated; lost; totally empty now. Nothing is left,” Oldfield wrote on the donation page. “Wendall has to keep working right there in the store, walking past this restroom, cleaning it daily. This is what the man does.”
“This memory of what happened in there will never leave him I fear. And, he cannot leave the store. He has no money,” Oldfield continued. “He has to keep going … he has to keep strong. He has to keep working. I cannot even imagine the torture.”
After Della’s death, Wendall was left to raise the couple’s two adopted adult grandchildren — John Columbia, 33, and Justin Gill, 20. One of the men has autism, and the other was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Oldfield, who is now a financial planner, created the GoFundMe campaign to help Wendall in his time of need, according to the newspaper. The campaign has raised nearly $75,000 for Wendall and his family, and ultimately, Oldfield says he would like to raise enough for his former coworker to retire.
“You still work, and I’m not sure you need to,” he told Wendall in a video on the donation 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.”
With the funds, they have been able to pay off Wendall’s two cars. The Herald-Leader also reported that strangers have offered to pay for Della’s headstone.
According to the Herald-Leader, Oldfield is also hoping to be able to pay off the $74,000 Wendall owes on his house.
Oldfield also wants Wendall to feel valued for all the work he has done over the years, so he is throwing his old friend an “Appreciation Party” on October 20 at a church near the McDonald’s. Hopefully, he said, Wendall will see how much he means to their community.
“I want 100 people to walk through the door and give the man a hug,” Oldfield told the Herald-Leader. “Despite having been under-compensated for all these years, he touched a lot of people.”
The community response so far has touched both men, they told theWashington Post earlier this month.
“I love them for doing something like that for me,” Wendall said. “They really care, and I care, too.”
Added Oldfield to the Post, “I’d lost a little faith in humanity until this came along.”