Donations pour in for Michigan man who has SIX HOUR commute to work, including 2.5-hour walk!

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(CNN) — There are tiring commutes. And then there’s James Robertson’s commute.

The 56-year-old Detroit man walks 21 miles every weekday as part of his journey to and from the factory where he works.

“I never thought anything I did would garner this much attention,” Robertson told CNN.

Robertson takes the bus some of the way, but for the past decade, ever since his car broke down, he has trudged the better part of a marathon each workday. Rain, snow or shine.

After reading about Robertson’s commute in a Detroit Free Press article from over the weekend, college student Evan Leedy was moved. Like Robertson, the 19-year-old lives and works in two different counties, so he spends a great deal commuting himself. Only Leedy has a car.

Leedy decided to set up an online fundraiser to buy Robertson a new car.

“My first car cost $3,000,” Leedy said, “So I set the goal at $5,000. Within an hour, we’d raised $2,000.”

Leedy’s fundraiser on GoFundMe has blown past its original goal, reaching a total of more than $215,000 Tuesday.

‘A true American hero’

Comments on the page from people donating money suggested that the story of Robertson’s dedication to getting to work had tapped into a deep well of public feeling.

“Thank you for inspiring me and hopefully tons of other people to persevere in the face of adversity,” said a contributor by the name of Kevin LeMelle. “You are a true American hero.”

“We could use more men like James Robertson in this world,” wrote a donor named Betty Blanchard.

Blake Pollack identifies with the strangers’ words of support. He first spotted Robertson during his own work commute route a year and a half ago.

“Climbing over snow banks, when it was pouring down rain in the summer,” Pollack said, “Whatever the weather, he was there.”

Pollack approached Robertson, who told the financial executive his story. Pollack promised to give him a ride the next time he saw him.

“Two to three months later, I saw him on a corner,” Pollack remembered, “And I asked if he needed a ride to work.”

Pollack estimates he’s given Robertson between 40 and 50 rides since then, and the two men from vastly different worlds have formed an unlikely friendship.

The pleasure, Pollack said, has been all his.

‘I set our attendance standard by this man’

“I’m the lucky one,” Pollack said. “Driving him around isn’t a chore, it’s a reward.”

Pollack said Robertson is “inspirational” and “funny,” adding that his work ethic puts anyone to shame.

“I set our attendance standard by this man,” Todd Wilson, plant manager at the engineering factory, told the newspaper. “I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I’ll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can’t get here — bull!”

Robertson apparently has perfect attendance record. He earns $10.55 an hour — not enough to save up to buy, insure and operate a car in the city, according to the newspaper.

With the online donations nearing $200,000, Robertson, Pollack and Leedy met together for the first time Monday night. The overwhelming support has extended beyond money — and several car dealerships have offered to give him a vehicle outright.

“Now that [the effort] is so big, there’s so much more to think about,” Leedy said.

There are, unfortunately, people who want to take advantage of Robertson’s newfound celebrity and his generosity, Pollack said. He put together a team that includes an attorney from a large law firm in Michigan, a CPA and a certified financial planner that he says will ensure the donation money is handled appropriately and in a way that best serves Robertson.

“This money that is being given to him — he earned every penny of it,” Leedy said, just by his worth ethic and his attitude.

He’s been making the arduous 21-mile journey from Detroit to Rochester Hills since his 1988 Honda Accord gave up on him.

The donations mean that Robertson’s mode of transportation will likely soon be changing, and without the long commute, he’ll probably be getting a lot more sleep. But he loves where he works, so he has no plans to change much else.

“I can’t imagine not working,” Robertson told CNN. “It’s what I’ve always done.”


  • What!

    His car was a 1988 Honda Accord he’s been making the walk since 2005. How did CNN mess this up. Maybe do some fact checking Fox6 you’re starting to report like fox news channel and MSDNC.

  • Heart Warmed

    I wish I had a way to help this gentleman, Isn’t there anyone close by who could get him into a vehicle? What about his employer? They should be proud to have him as an employee. On the other hand the walking has probably done wonders for his health. Here’s to you James

    • What!

      He’s already doing better than most of us ie: his gofundme has $100,000 and a dealership is giving him a car.

  • Keenan Fortner

    This man is a perfect example for these young dudes that don’t want anything positive in their lives….. Great job sir. Hopefully life gets much better for you…

  • JC

    I’m lost he has a job and a dead car so people donate to get him a car. Why doesn’t he get a loan for a new car like millions of other folks

    • EcoMouse

      Seriously? Can you make rent, utilities, food, car insurance AND a car payment on $10.55 and hour? No, you can not.

      Gas & Insurance will eat into his $10.55 per hr wage. Sometimes just having a car isn’t all what’s cracked up to be when you are just a wage slave. This guy is an inspiration. I’ve walked that kind of distance in a day before, and I can tell you it’s really exhausting, more so than running the same distance. (Which I now do regularly)

      But to fight the rising costs of food, insurance and utilities I personally ride a motorcycle, rain or shine. It’s way cheaper than a car. And between a pair of saddle bags and a backpack, I can still get over $100 of groceries home, so that’s not an issue as some people like to point out.

      • christina

        I found the person who would never survive in a poverty situation! The minute you said “car payment” I could see you werent bringing seasoned wisdom tonthe table. You see, buddy, car payments are unnecessary. If someone really needs a car quickly, they can buy a back and forth beater for as little as a few hundred. As for rentnand utilities, if he isnliving by himself, they can be surprisingly low – likr $400/mo, utilities included low. Now, lets talk food. Again, one person doesnt require asnmuch as you might think.and could easily survive off of $70/week. On a $10.55 wage with 25% taken for taxes, that leaves over $500 per month for car insurance, clothing, etc. And before you start arguing about this…I’ve actually lived this life. I’ve done this. It is completely possible.

      • JC

        I have respect for the man that walks to work everyday and I’m not blaming him for taking the donations, hell I would if I was in his shoes but he has made his choices on where to work and live so why the pity party for this guy when there are thousands of people in the same boat?

  • Lisa

    $100,000 is more than enough for a car… hell the $25,000 is more than enough for a car! Good for him not giving up and comtinuing to work.. no excuses.

  • Really!?!

    It’s his choice to walk, nice commitment. If he was that unhappy he could find new work. If not, use your paycheck and move to a different area where the jobs are more plentiful and the standard of living is balanced with the area. That’s what we have done (and about to do it again) and we have a child (now a teen). There are people in worse situations with less options.

  • braken da law

    And u lazy a$$ thugs, beaners , white trash and most of the ghetto if u want a job bad enough u will do what ever it takes to get one, but i know u would rather just rob and shoot people!!!

  • Coco

    How is it a pity party when he’s only telling his story because they asked him to share it? It’s not his fault someone thought his story was Amazing. I mean really how many people would get up EVERY morning Monday through Friday to leave out the house by 8am to start their work commute (walking) in time enough to make it to work by 2 pm. ? That takes dedication! No one reading this article or who have watched the video truly knows this mans reasonings for still working with this company or even for that matter why he hasn’t moved yet. For people to sit here and compare their life to his and to go into detail on how they changed and he can to. LISTEN…. Different strokes for different folks. This mans upbringings I’m sure differs from a lot of critics so to say what he should have & should be doing to make his life easier is easier to say it then it may be to really do it. It may take him a little bit more time to get out of a slump then it took you. I don’t mind donating to him & I don’t think it’s a pity party! I don’t mind helping people who show the will to WANT to help them selves. Whatever reason it is why he hadn’t gotten a vehicle since his died in 2005 isn’t my business but the facts that have been shared are enough for me to want to help. After all that’s what life is all about giving freely & unconditionally!! God will reward you for your kind acts & if it’s a hoax the collector will be rightfully held accountable. Give from the heart & God will take care of the rest!

  • b

    What a crappy plant manager who does not care about the well being of his employees! I commend the work ethic of this guy but to me this is more a story of disgraceful people management. Surely something could have been worked out over the last 10 years, this is appalling. And no co-workers could step up and carpool the guy??

  • Mike Johnson

    i have respect for the man working and getting to his job by any means necessary but when the donations so far are at about 250,000 something is wrong here people should be donating money to other worthy causes if they must. the gofundme account was to get the man a car/gas/insurance not a potential retirement fund. i sure hope he pays it forward because there are millions of people in similar situations

    • kevin

      I totally agree. this is insane.. You telling me the guy could not buy a car for 500 dolllars and drive to work? america is totally insane.. there are way better causes.. this is socialism to one person. How does this make other poor people feel even people like myself denied justice because of a statute of limtations? America is truely sick.

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