An old student helped Villaruel move into a hotel and also raised $27,000 for him through a GoFundMe campaign.
A teacher who was left homeless by the pandemic now has a roof over his head thanks to his old students who are rallying to help him. Steven Nava, who had been taught by José Villaruel, had seen a man sleeping in their car at a parking lot many times but it took a while before he connected the dots and realized it was a former substitute high school teacher. "I noticed that he had all of his belongings in his car, and that's when I realized he was homeless," said Nava, reported NBC Los Angeles. José Villaruel was known as Mr. V. Villaruel to the students. He lost work after the school moved classes to virtual sessions last year and has since faced housing insecurity.
Villarruel realized that distance learning was here to stay and resigned from his job. "I decided the school situation has changed completely and I believed that a job of a substitute was over," said Villarruel, according to Fox11. "In May, I submitted my resignation. I managed to do all of the paperwork, all of the arrangements to get my pension. I got my check, but that check didn't last long because I had debts already," he said.
After Nava realized it was his old school teacher, he spoke to him and helped move him to a hotel, and donated $300. "I had a mission to help the teacher who was going through a difficult time during the pandemic,” said Nava.
Villaruel, 77, told Nava that his only source of income was a monthly Social Security check, a major chunk of which he sent to his wife who is very ill in Mexico. Villaruel willed himself to ride the storm, often telling himself, "I must not give up, and I have to go on, and on, and do what I have to do for this stage to pass," according to TODAY.
TWITTER FRIENDS PLEASE HELP! every morning/ night I’ve always noticed this older man that would stay out in his car constantly at this parking lot near my house even when the weather was bad. He looked familiar and I’m sure alot of y’all have had him as a substitute in Fontana... pic.twitter.com/3hFpIAOMCO— stvnna ⚡️ (@thesteven7) March 6, 2021
Once Nava moved his former teacher to a hotel, he reached out to his followers on Twitter and some of the teacher's old students to help raise money for Villaruel. Nava also started a GoFundMe campaign to help his former teacher. The community and his old students rallied around him. “Mr. V was a great, funny, and helpful educator and substitute teacher in the Fontana Unified School District,” wrote Nava on the GoFundMe page. “He’s struggled with getting back on his feet after the pandemic hit and has been living in his car ever since, despite the brutal weather and living conditions. This fundraiser is to help him out financially and (to get him) back to normal life.”
The campaign raised more than $27,000, surpassing the original target of $15,000. A Twitter user lauded Nava for helping his old teacher. “Thank you for being such a hero in our community and looking out for those that need our help,” tweeted Claudia Gonzalez. “You are a fine example of what it means to unselfishly lookout for those that need support and a bit of humanity.”
made me shed a tear knowing he subbed for my classes easily a dozen times. And crazy my lil bro also got subbed by him in hs few years after 💔— •joshua_🌲 (@JTrees00) March 7, 2021
Nava also gathered a few of his old teacher's students to celebrate Villaruel’s 77th birthday. “I want him to feel that he’s cared for, and loved by all those who he’s helped along the years,” wrote Nava on Twitter. Villaruel was presented with the $27,000 check from the GoFundMe campaign.
The elderly man, who had been living in his car just days ago couldn't believe what was happening. “Am I dreaming?” asked Villaruel. "It is an experience of my life that will be kept for the rest of my life. I carry it in my heart," said Villaruel. "I felt that something was going to happen, that things were going to change, and it happened suddenly when I least expected it. I tell the students when they have a project, keep going despite the difficulties, don't give up. Do not give up. Don't quit."
Image source: GoFundMe