ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A northeast Albuquerque neighborhood is coming together to help a beloved crossing guard suffering with lingering impacts from COVID-19. Even on a gloomy, fall morning, off Academy Hills and Concordia, there is a bright spot.
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“Morning,” said Charlie Gonzales as he waves to kids and cars passing by. He helps get kids safely to school at Hubert Humphrey Elementary every morning, waving, laughing, and talking to everyone who crosses his path.
“Knowing that he’s there it’s that element of safety for sure. But he goes above and beyond and helps us feel loved,” said Jessica Dunlap, whose kids walk to school.
“I’ve been doing this for five years,” said Gonzales. But this year is different.
“It’s awful carrying this tank,” he said. “I try to hide it from the kids. so they won’t see it so much…I tell them, it’s to breathe.”
Gonzales still uses an oxygen tank after contracting COVID and pneumonia almost a year ago. “Doctor said it scarred my heart and my lungs. So, I have a hard time breathing,” he said.
Gonzales even had to be hospitalized earlier this year. After the community found out, they decided to step up and help him out, like he’s done for all of them over the years.
“I’d noticed that he’d been missing work more than he had before. And he ended up being hospitalized,” said Dunlap. “We talked about doing something for Charlie and the thought of doing a GoFundMe to go help pay for possible medical bills or just alleviating the stress of having to miss work.”
Through a GoFundMe, parents and community members raised almost $3,000. One morning, they surprised him with cards and the money one morning.
“They came through for me. Not money-wise, it’s not about the money. It’s about heart,” he said. “They’re angels. Really to me, they are.”
While every day isn’t easy. “I fight for air,” said Gonzales. For him, stopping the job would be a lot harder. “I love these kids. And I’ll continue doing it until I fall down. That’s it,” he said. “I’m blessed.”
The GoFundMe for Gonzales is going to stay open for a few more months to continue to help with his medical bills. He said he will be on the oxygen tank for at least a year.