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TikToker raised $186K so an 81-year-old Walmart worker could retire — but she said she'll stay on to help out over the holidays

INSIDER 5 days ago mleighton@insider.com (Mara Leighton)
Nola Carpenter with Devan Bonagura. Instagram;@dbon973;TikTok;@dbon973_ © Provided by INSIDER Nola Carpenter with Devan Bonagura. Instagram;@dbon973;TikTok;@dbon973_
  • A TikToker started a GoFundMe so an 81-year-old Walmart worker could retire
  • The GoFundMe raised more than $186,000 so Nola Carpenter could pay off her mortgage.  
  • Carpenter says she plans to retire but she'll first help out at the store over the holidays.

A little over a week after a 15-second video of her went viral, 81-year-old Nola Carpenter said she can finally retire. But, first, she said she'll stay on at Walmart to help with the holidays, a notoriously busy shopping period. 

On November 3, 19-year-old TikToker Devan Bonagura uploaded a video of Carpenter sitting at a break room table at a New Jersey Walmart, with the caption "Life shouldn't be this hard," to TikTok. It's been viewed more than 30 million times. (Bonagura later told viewers he didn't work at Walmart but for a third-party company that sells products at the retailer). Shortly after, Bonagura created a GoFundMe for Carpenter's retirement.

Two days later, Bonagura posted a video of himself meeting up with Carpenter to transfer the account — at that time totaling $110,000 in donations — over to her. 

A post shared by DBON (@dbon973)

 

Carpenter expressed her thanks for the donations, saying they would help her mortgage go "way down," but clarified that it wouldn't be enough for her to retire, as the donors had seemingly intended. "I'd accept it," she told him of the money, "but I'd still have to work until I get the other $60,000 paid off on the house."

At Walmart's average wage of $19 per hour, an additional $60,000 would have likely taken Carpenter several more years of 40-hour work weeks to save up. For Carpenter, like millions of US workers with little savings, retirement was not an option.

On November 13, Bonagura posted a follow-up video with Carpenter, as the GoFundMe shot up to $180,000 — more than the total she'd said she would need to pay off her mortgage — from 13,500 donations. (As of the time of publishing, it's now at $186,653).

 

Carpenter told Bonagura she was "ecstatic" about the generosity and thanked those who "spread the news" or made donations so she could now comfortably retire. "That's what I was working at Walmart for — to pay my house off," she explained.

Carpenter said she's been a Walmart employee for 20 years, and told Bonagura she'll miss the regulars. "I'm going to miss my customers. They look for me every day."

Despite the windfall, Carpenter doesn't plan to "completely retire" until January. "I'm going to help them out for the holidays, and after that, it'll be good to stay at home." 

Nola Carpenter and Devan Bonagura did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Email tips on all things internet to mleighton@insider.com.

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