In March, Half Moon Bay resident Helmut Schneyder lost tens of thousands of dollars to a common “grandparent scam.” At first, he was worried about going public with his story out of shame. But after deciding to speak out about his loss, his congregation at Coastside Lutheran Church raised $7,000 to get him back on his feet.

Along the way, Schneyder said, he’s found healing.

“I had my doubts about publishing at the time of the virus,” Schneyder said. “I am so grateful.”

Pastor Dawn Teuthorn said the story is one of generosity and paying it forward. One member of the congregation reached out to help almost immediately. They had been through a similar ordeal years ago, when the Half Moon Bay community came to their aid after a robbery on their first day moving to the Coastside.

Schneyder, who has been a member of the congregation for nine years, shared his story only to help prevent future scams. But the church community set up a page and helped raise more than $7,000 to let him know his community was behind him.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Teuthorn said. “It wasn’t about the money, it was about that these people — who I did not know, and who did not know me — cared enough to give in this way.”

Schneyder said the experience, coupled with the changing world amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was eye opening for him. He grew up in Nazi Germany and said he never understood why his parents didn’t do more to stand up to Hitler. But after being duped by a scammer, Schneyder said, he can now understand how easy it is to be tricked — and how much shame and embarrassment comes along.

Now, Shneyder said, he sleeps more easily at night, and even his writing has improved now that he can put his feelings into words.

“There was liberation in my mind,” Schneyder said.

Little did Teuthorn know, Schneyder had felt isolated because of the incident, and had been considering leaving the area after the scam left him with little resources or reason to stay. But now, with the power of his community behind him, he’s made peace with the mistake and no longer holds resentment — neither to the scammers nor toward his parents.

“Never underestimate what a difference an act of generosity can make in a person’s life,” Teuthorn said. “It can shift a heart and a home when we didn't know it needed to be shifted.”

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