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Emma Arrue, a fixture on Key Biscayne since 2007 as a cashier at the Winn-Dixie supermarket, says it’s just part of the job to be pleasant, to chitchat with customers as the groceries are rung up, and to ask people about their day. 

“I’m like, ‘Hey how are you doing today?’ People come up and sometimes give me a hug. They talk to me about little things, like how their granddaughter had a birthday today,” she said. “I guess I got a little report and started to gain people’s confidence.”

Arrue, 62, didn’t know how much an impact she made on Key Biscayne residents until she  reported her car stolen on Dec. 2. A GoFundMe Page has raised more than $5,200 to help her out.

“I owe a whole lot of thanks to these people in Key Biscayne. They’ve been very, very nice to me. They really have restored my faith in human nature,” she said.

Maria del Carmen Chiriboga came up with the idea for the GoFundMe page for Arrue Dec.18 after noticing the usually cheerful cashier appeared forlorn. At first, Arrue said everything was fine. But Chiriboga – who goes by  the name Lolita – kept pressing.

“I knew she was hurting,” Chiriboga said. “I can’t remember going to Winn-Dixie and not seeing her smiley face.”

Arrue said she was reluctant to open up. “If I have a problem, I leave it behind me. I can’t bring it to work,” she said.

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Chiriboga, who works in telecommunications, posted links to the GoFundMe page on NextDoor and it got picked up on other social media. Residents immediately responded, praising Arrue for her helpfulness at Winn-Dixie and donated eagerly. 

“I am overwhelmed. I had over 110 donations. People from all walks of life were happy to donate between $10 and $250,” Chiriboga said. 

Mayor Joe Rasco and Council Member Ed London were among those who donated, she said.

Arrue said her bad luck started when she reported her Hyundai stolen  Dec. 2 in front of her Miami home. Police told her 11 days later the car had been located at Downtown Towing on 20th Street. 

A person at the towing company, who didn’t want to be identified, said the standard storing fee is $29 a day “Somebody has got to pay,” he said. 

Arrue said she made a claim with her auto insurer, United Automobile, to pay the storage fee. 

The insurer told Arrue it would only provide $20 a day for a rental car. For example, the lowest price rental car at Enterprise in Miami starts at $40 a day.  

Arrue said so far, she hasn ‘t gottne answers from the insurance company on paying up and getting her car released from the towing company.

“At first, they would answer my calls, but all of a sudden, they just stopped,” she said.

United Automobile wasn’t open on Monday’s holiday. The Better Business Bureau gives the insurer one star and has received 373 complaints in a three-year span. 

Arrue kept working, though. She was trying to get a friend to lend her a vehicle to get to work by 3 p.m. Otherwise, she was planning on taking the bus.

“I’ve been taking two buses to go to work and two buses to get home,” she said. 

 “Emma is a wonderful human being and I’m glad the community responded as they did,” Chiriboga said.

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John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.