California woman raises thousands for Good Samaritan who returned $676 check

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Sometimes, it actually pays to be a good person.

That’s the lesson Sergio Juarez learned after he returned a $676 cashier’s check he found on the street to its owner — who, in turn, set up a GoFundMe campaign for the good Samaritan that already raised nearly $10,000 as of Tuesday.

“It was returned to me the same night to my doorstep by a man named Sergio, who I soon came to realize was living with his wife and children out of a motel nearby,” Yesenia Ortiz-Del Valle wrote on the fundraising website. “I was touched by his actions and how he initially refused to take any reward. There’s still a lot of good people in the world and Sergio is a living example.”

The post concluded: “Let’s help him get on his feet again! Even the smallest act of caring has the potential to turn a life around.”

She told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she planned to use the check to pay state taxes — but then couldn’t find it anywhere.

“Somehow it flew away,” she told KGTV. “I was going crazy. Literally, I went home and I was crying.”

Juarez later came to her door after finding the check, which had Ortiz-Del Valle’s name and address on it. She then offered Juarez a $40 reward for his good deed.

“He said to me, ‘I’m going to use this to put gas in my car,’” she told the Union-Tribune. “Then when I asked him where he lived, he didn’t want to tell me.”

Juarez, in fact, had been living out of a Motel 6 in Imperial Beach with his wife and children after they both lost their jobs, including his position as a custodian at Southwestern College in Chula Vista.

“We’ve been homeless for over three years,” Juarez told the news station. “There’s a lot of families that are going through what I’m going through. From living in Otay Ranch, nice area, beautiful park, to where you’re living in a hotel.”

Despite his tough times, Juarez said he never considered keeping the check.

“It’s not my money. It’s her money,” he told KGTV. “Whether it’s 25 cents or $4,000, I don’t care what it is, it’s not your money.”

The following day, Ortiz-Del Valle created the fundraising campaign that she titled, “We rise by lifting others.” As of Tuesday, the campaign had generated $9,745 from 325 people in five days, dwarfing the original goal of $5,000.