Detroiter Who Walks 21 Miles To Work Gets A New Car – And $350K

James Robertson, a 56-year-old from Detroit, spent the last 10 years walking 21-miles round trip to work each day. When his old Honda quit on him years ago, insurance rates were too high for him to replace it, but Metro Detroit’s bus system remained unreliable. The only thing he could count on were his own two feet, which he used to maintain a perfect attendance record at his factory job in Rochester Hills, MI. When Robertson’s story made its way to the Detroit Free Press last week, he became a worldwide sensation, and the kindness of strangers landed Robertson a new car and a hefty cash donation so he’ll never have to make that long walk again. Maybe the world isn’t going to hell in a hand basket after all.

Black Pollock, a 47-year-old who works in finance, became friends with Robertson when he began to recognize him walking on the side of the road each day as he drove to work. Their commutes overlapped, so Pollock gave him regular rides, and ultimately alerted the Free Press of Robertson’s incredible work ethic. As Robertson’s face appeared on newspapers across the city last week, another kind stranger stepped in and took the goodwill even further. Nineteen-year-old Evan Leedy, a student at nearby Wayne State University, read the story and was moved to launch a GoFundMe page to raise money so “the walking man” could at last get a car. His simple act was all it took to drastically change Robertson’s life. The page began with a $25,000 fundraising goal and instead raised a whopping $350,000. Robertson had told the press he’d been considering getting a Ford Taurus with the funds, and on Friday, he arrived at a local Ford dealership under the impression that he’d be picking up some brochures to explore his options. Instead, he walked in the door to find the car of his dreams waiting for him, a gift from the dealership.

Pollock is gathering a board of unpaid financial advisors who will meet with Robertson to help him manage his newfound funds and plan for things like car insurance and income taxes. Robertson has no plans to move away from the central Detroit neighborhood where he grew up and still lives, nor to leave his job and the coworkers that are practically family to him. He’s thrilled that his story is drawing attention to the need for a better bus system in the city to serve others who are without a car. When he first sat in his new Taurus, his immediate thought was of the people who made him who he is today. “If only my parents could see this. It’s really a tribute to them, and the things they instilled,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m the same man I’ve always been. They (parents) kept me humble and kept me working. When I slip into this car, I’ll be thinking about them, every time.”

[USA Today]

[Detroit Free Press]

[Image via Detroit Free Press]