Elmer Alvarez lived on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut. Winters get harsh there and Alvarez could use a place to stay. One day, in early November, he found a check on the street. A check for $10,000.
A homeless man could spend a comfortable winter with that kind of money.
But that wasn’t what Alvarez was thinking about, he said.
He was thinking about the person who lost the check.
“I was just thinking about how that person was feeling,” he told WTNH. “That amount of money like that. I would’ve been feeling kind of desperate.”
He asked a friend who spoke better English to call the lady who wrote the check, Roberta Hoskie.
Hoskie, a successful real estate broker, investor, and entrepreneur, didn’t know she had lost the check. She thought she must have left it in her car, she said in a Facebook video.
Needless to say, she was happy to receive the call. “I don’t care what you say. There are so many really good people in this world,” she said.
She went to see Alvarez to pick up the check on Nov. 8, livestreaming a video of the whole encounter via Facebook.
She asked Alvarez why he returned the check. He said, his friend translating, it was because of his faith in the divine.
“I believe it’s in my heart, trying to help others. Even that I don’t got nothing to help them, if I got a dollar and they ask for it and I don’t need it, I give it to them,” he later explained, giving credit to his mother for teaching him manners.
Hoskie initially decided to write Alvarez a check to thank him. But when she learned he was homeless she realized she needed to do more.
Hoskie used to be homeless herself, living in a shelter. “I was a single mother on welfare,” she said.
Since she was a little girl, she said she prayed, “bless me, so I can be a blessing to others.” She felt that meeting Alvarez made her face that prayer.
“It reminded me of, one, how far I’ve come, and two, to never forget where you’ve come from. And how God would take your life and turn it full circle,” she said in a later Facebook live stream.
But how could she help?
If she found the man a place to stay, how could he pay the rent? She asked her online audience for help and one of the viewers suggested she should “teach him to fish.”
That gave her an idea to give the man a scholarship for her 9-week real estate course. She signed up Alvarez’s girlfriend too, who helps translate for him, so they can support each other during the studies. Hoskie also added career counseling, English lessons, and a place to stay.
When she started to reveal her plan to Alvarez, during a Nov. 22 press conference, he couldn’t hold back tears.
When Hoskie said one of her partners agreed to grant Alvarez a job interview whenever he’s ready to work, he immediately said, “I’m ready.”
As a founder of a sisterhood that helps women break out of poverty, Hoskie then shared with Alvarez her life lesson: See past your problems and don’t get bogged down by them. Stay focused on the future. When the seeds of your efforts bear fruit, your past poverty will give meaning to your present prosperity.
In return for her help, she asked Alvarez to “pay it forward” and one day do for somebody what she did for him.
“You have your opportunity,” she said. “The rest is up to you.”
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