NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Martin Hernandez is in between jobs, recently moved and is trying to sell a house.
It's the least of his worries. His son Elijah is missing in Mexico. All Hernandez knew was somehow he had to get to Cabo San Lucas to begin the search.
"The ladies moved so fast that they put all these things together, immediately, just for us to fly up there," Hernandez said.
The grateful father was speaking of three women who became friends with his wife and Elijah in a Bible study group they shared.
"You kinda rallied some troops on your end," Rikki Leigh Willoughby said to her other friends.
No one wanted to take full credit of starting the effort to raise money.
The women know Teresa is going through every parent's worst nightmare.
"It resonates within us that fear, that despair," Susan Chandler said.
The connection fed their efforts to find Elijah Hernandez.
"Flights to Cabo are not cheap," Willoughby said.
Fundraising efforts started, and they haven't stopped yet.
“Most of all, we just really feel like that there's more work to be done, and it will cost a lot more money," said Linda Nichols, who describes Elijah as a "level-headed man with a pure intent."
They know hotel, food, and transportation expenses all add up.
“Recently they've put out posters, so getting those altogether and also reward money," Willoughby said.
One million pesos, about $70,000 dollars, has been offered so far.
E-Tech, a customer service center headquartered in Nacogdoches, set up a call center to receive phoned in tips to bilingual phone representatives. The company's CEO is Matt Rocco, Elijah's youth leader for 15 years.
"As soon as those posters went up, within the next 24 hours, we were already receiving calls. So we've received probably, last time I looked, over a dozen calls," Rocco said.
The information is sent to private investigators working in Cabo.
Here in East Texas, the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office agreed to file a missing person's report when other agencies refused.
“That allowed them to get with T-Mobile to try to trace his phone," Chandler said.
In addition, E-Tech set up a Find Elijah Hernandez Website where posters and links to a Facebook page and a Gofundme account can be found.
The generosity and trust exhibited by Nacogdoches residents and others brings tears to a father's eyes.
"I'm overwhelmed the way the people have responded," Hernandez said.
So far, over 1,200 people have liked the Find Elijah Hernandez community Facebook page and close to $6,000 has been contributed to the gofundme account.
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