Woodmont Country Club bartender Esteban Raul Atencio recently retired after 49 years working at the mostly Jewish golf club in Rockville. And as a going-away present, club members raised more than $43,000 on GoFundMe for him.
Matt Bergman, of Potomac, has been a club member for about 30 years. And in that time, he’s gotten to know some of the staff pretty well, including Atencio.
Bergman described Atencio, 75, as a “warm individual” who “always had a smile on his face.”
“He was family to everybody. He’s always polite. He’s always asked members how they are doing,” Bergman said. “He’s just been a really wonderful employee who is more like family.”
So it came as a surprise when Bergman was dining at the club and noticed Atencio wasn’t there. After inquiring with staff, he learned that Atencio had retired. Atencio had planned to stay on another year, but he moved up his retirement due to the pandemic. Out of concern, Bergman got Atencio’s phone number and gave him a call to see how he was doing.
After the conversation, Bergman came up with the idea of pulling together with some friends to give Atencio a retirement present. So he reached out to a dozen club members with the idea and donations immediately started to pour in.
“It happened so quickly,” Bergman said. “Within a matter of minutes, all of a sudden, we had, like, $1,000.”
The success led Bergman to launch a GoFundMe on Nov. 22 with a goal of raising $5,000 for Atencio. As of Dec. 8, the campaign has raised more than $43,000.
“I just wasn’t expecting this,” Bergman said.
Atencio is originally from Peru. He said he enjoyed his time working at the club and appreciates all who have contributed to his goodbye present.
“The surprise was so nice. I started to cry,” he said.
A tribute to Atencio is planned for Dec. 19. People are invited to drive by the club for a honking and waving parade from 3-4:30 p.m.
WJW reached out to Woodmont Country Club, but a spokesperson declined to comment.