A Detroit man’s daily 21-mile walk to work has inspired people across the country to raise more than $60,000 to buy him a car and pay for his auto insurance. And at least two car dealerships have offered to donate brand new vehicles to ease his travel.
Every weekday, James Robertson, 56, leaves his home in Detroit and travels nearly 28 miles to his factory job in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Public transportation doesn’t cover the full route of his commute, so he walks about eight miles to work and about 13 miles home. He also takes a bus ride part-way to work. He has endured the trek since his Honda Accord stopped working in 2005. But despite the challenges, Robertson reportedly has perfect attendance at his job, where he earns $10.55 per hour molding parts.
The Detroit Free Press published a story about Robertson on the front page of its newspaper Sunday. Evan Leedy, a 19-year-old student studying computer science at nearby Wayne State University in Detroit, read the article on the newspaper’s Facebook page around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. People posted comments, calling on Robertson’s bosses to give him a raise, and even offering their vehicles, bus tickets and daily car services to him. Leedy, who has a similar daily commute but travels by car, wanted to help. In five minutes, he created a fundraising cause for Robertson on a GoFundMe website.
Leedy said he initially set the goal to $5,000, which was reached within hours. Before he went to bed on Sunday night, $37,000 had been raised. When he woke up on Monday, the amount reached $42,000. And by later that morning, the campaign surpassed $52,500. With the money, Leedy hopes to buy Robertson a car, pay for his insurance and provide professional help in managing the donations.
“Most people in that situation quit their job,” Leedy told msnbc. “But he has been with his company for 10 years, and he didn’t want to give that up, and he does whatever it takes to get there.”
The college student partnered with two other people who also had created GoFundMe sites for Robertson. Leedy pointed out that none of them personally know Robertson. But together, their sites have raised more than $60,000.
Leedy, who attends school in Robertson’s Detroit neighborhood and works near the factory, said he drives about 70 miles each day. “I’ve complained about an hour’s ride home, but to see this guy, who walks eight hours a day, 21 miles a day, that’s incredible. He walks almost a marathon every single day.”
“I would love to see it turn into way more than a car. We could help this guy move into his own house or move closer to his work,” Leedy added.
Honda’s North American corporate office and Rodgers Chevrolet in nearby Woodhaven, Michigan, each offered to donate a brand new car to Robertson, Leedy said. Monetary donations have come from as far as the Gaza Strip.
In a video that accompanied the story, Robertson said he is mentally and physically drained by Friday afternoon after a full week of work and commuting.
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SOURCE: MSNBC, Michele Richinick