Renton cons stole more than elderly woman’s money

It’s really sad to think that Alvina Popke or anyone who reads her story will harden their hearts to those in need. If that happens, then that is what the con artist has really stolen from us – a giving heart. But the message is clear. If someone walks up to you on the street, out of the blue, with a scheme to help you or a charity, keep on walking. Instead, walk down to the Salvation Army and write them a check. Or mail off a check to your favorite charity.

It’s stories like this that make people wrap a giving heart in steel.

Alvina Popke was doing something she has probably done thousands of times – walk out of a grocery store with a load of groceries. We have all done that, minding our own business.

Many of you may know Alvina, who is 83. She worked for many restaurants in downtown Renton as a waitress years ago. She even ran a restaurant upstairs from where I am sitting in the old Renton City Hall.

The $6,000 she lost was an important part of her life savings.

For Alvina, this time the short walk was different. She was stopped by a friendly looking woman with a big “problem” – she had a bunch of money to give away and fast. That night, she was headed home to Africa.

She asked Alvina whether she had a charity that was in need of money. Of course. The Renton Salvation Army. But this woman needed proof that Alvina wouldn’t pocket the money herself.

This is where the story becomes confusing. The sad details are clear, as told by Alvina. I just had a hard time understanding how someone would fall for this and kept asking Alvina slightly different versions of the same questions.

Alvina is sharp. It took a real con to make off with Alvina’s $6,000. But it’s unlikely the two women who scammed her will ever get caught, at least for this crime.

But Alvina, like so many people, have big hearts and will act generously – even if it places them at risk.

I think that Alvina could kick herself now. If only she had charged the batteries in that mental light bulb that didn’t go off until too late, as she describes it.

But it’s really sad to think that Alvina or anyone who reads her story will harden their hearts to those in need. If that happens, then that is what the con artist has really stolen from us – a giving heart.

But the message is clear.

If someone walks up to you on the street, out of the blue, with a scheme to help you or a charity, keep on walking. Instead, walk down to the Salvation Army and write them a check. Or mail off a check to your favorite charity.

All is not lost for Alvina. Renton is rallying to her aid.

The response to a fund set up at US Bank to help Alvina has been “very positive,” according to branch manager, Emily Guadamuz.

Alvina Popke

Relief Fund

c/o US Bank

858 S. 2nd St.

Renton, WA 98055


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