When a 19-year-old college student found himself in an unfortunate situation, a Delafield police officer stepped in to help.
After working all summer to save up to buy a vehicle, on Aug. 24 Aaron Rodriguez traveled from his Milwaukee home to Oconomowoc, where he purchased a Dodge truck for $3,250.
Less than a half-hour later, as he was driving on Interstate 94, smoke started coming out of the truck. Rodriguez pulled into the Kwik Trip off Highway 83 in Delafield and soon saw flames.
Police Officer Dan Barber responded. “I was on scene almost immediately, and there were three people using fire extinguishers to spray out the fire,” said Barber, who noted that the cause of the fire is unknown.
After the fire was extinguished, Rodriguez had to pay $174 to have the truck towed to Milwaukee. Barber noted that because auto insurance was in the process of being applied for, it was not a benefit to him.
“It was a private sale between two individuals with an agreement as an as-is vehicle, and there was obviously nothing I could do professionally,” Barber said.
But a day later, when he was off duty, Barber set up a GoFundMe account to try to recoup some of the money Rodriguez lost. In less than a week, the account raised nearly $3,700.
“I woke up the next morning; we had tons of donations,” Barber said. “Within 48 hours, we hit the goal of $3,250. That was the replacement cost of the vehicle.”
Barber also received three large donations from Lake Country Candies, Iron Fireman and Clean Living Environments. By the end of the week, Barber had raised about $4,500 to give to Rodriguez for another vehicle and possibly help with tuition as well.
“I remember what it’s like to be a college student where you’re working a gig where you’re not making a whole lot of money,” said Barber, who has been with the Delafield Police Department for over six years. “It takes you a while to save up. This was his first truck he was buying on his own. He purchased a truck with four-wheel drive because he had such a difficult time last year in the winter with a rear-wheel vehicle he was driving.”
Barber said he will keep the GoFundMe account open for another couple weeks.
Another business, All World Transmissions in Waukesha, offered to donate an hour of vehicle inspection for Rodriguez when he purchases a new vehicle.
“They’ll give it a once-over and see if there is anything wrong with it so this doesn’t happen again,” Barber said.
Rodriguez, an incoming sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was grateful for all of the support.
“I was really humbled and grateful for everything the community surrounding Officer Dan,” Rodriguez said. “I’m completely amazed that so many people were willing to lend me a hand.”