Toronto man raising money for 70-year-old woman who has worked at KFC since 1975
Jason Couture remembers walking with his mom to the KFC at Broadview and Gerrard every weekend during his years growing up in Riverdale.
"There was this lady, her name was Emilia. I started to recognize her just from taking a walk to get a bucket of chicken on Sundays," he told blogTO.
Couture, 40, was just about five years old when he first met Emilia.
Emilia, who is now 70 years old, started working at the fried chicken food chain in 1975 when she was 25.
She still dedicatedly punches in for her shift five days each week, only now she's at the Pape and Sammon Avenue location which is just up the street from Pape subway station.
"I pass by and she'll still be there. So many years have gone by – 45 years – and in those years this lady has had people smiling when they leave," Couture says.
"It doesn't matter what workspace you work in, it's about how they do their job and she's someone that deserves recognition."
Couture decided to start a GoFundMe for Emilia after being in the restaurant one day when she was being treated poorly by a customer.
"I think I had a problem with a customer and Jason was there and he didn't like the way he was treating me," Emilia told blogTO.
"I never have too many problems with customers, I get along with actually everybody. But once in a blue moon, someone will come in that doesn't like you."
Emilia, who's never owned a computer and has only a rotary phone at home, wasn't sure what to think when Couture told her about starting the fundraiser for her.
"I was on break and I think he told the manager and I said, 'No, I don't want anything.' I didn't know what that was. I live a very simple life and don't know much about that stuff."
Couture says he's sure others in the neighbourhood have also come across Emilia and will remember who she is.
"She's told me about lots of customers she remembers and I think it's the customers that have given her energy to continue and have that dedication to be there for so many years," he says.
"I want to try and raise some money for her personal health, maybe for when she retires, to help her pay rent, or to just get through COVID."
Emilia says she moved to Toronto from Portugal on her own when she was 20 years old and was taken in by her cousin, her only family in the city.
"I had no English at all, I had to learn it. I never really went to school at all because the jobs that I had and the hours I used to work didn't allow me to," she told blogTO.
The five years before she started at KFC, Emilia worked multiple different minimum-wage jobs as a dry cleaner, at one point working three jobs at a time to stay afloat.
"So I kept the part-time job at KFC and when [a full timer] left I took it and that was it," she says.
"I've always liked it. A lot of people ask me how people can be so rude to me and I always talk so nice to them, but it's just my style."
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