POSTED: 5:48 a.m. HST, Sep 19, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 12:26 p.m. HST, Sep 19, 2013
BOSTON >> A fund for a homeless man who turned in a backpack with more than $40,000 inside has collected more than $100,000, an overwhelming response that's a "statement to everyone in America," said the man who started the donation drive.
Glen James flagged down a police officer on Saturday after he found the backpack containing $2,400 in cash and almost $40,000 in traveler's checks at the South Bay Mall. The man who lost it told workers at a nearby store, and they called police, who later returned it to him.
James, who once worked at a Boston courthouse, said even if he were desperate he wouldn't have kept "even a penny" of the money he found. Boston police honored James with a special citation on Monday.
A stranger from Midlothian, Va., Ethan Whittington, after reading media accounts of James' honesty, started a fund for him on the crowd-funding website gofundme.com. By late Thursday afternoon, almost $111,000 in donations had been made.
Whittington, an accounts manager for a marketing firm, said he's overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers.
"The fact that he's in the situation he is, being homeless, it blew my mind that he would do this (turn in the backpack)," Whittington said Wednesday.
"It's caught on like wildfire ever since," he said. "It's brought me a lot of hope. ... This isn't only about rewarding a great guy. I think it's a statement to everyone in America. If we come together and work toward one thing and work together, then we can make it happen."
Whittington said he's also encountered some skeptics who question whether his efforts to raise money for James could be a scam.
"It's almost kind of depressing, to do something for a great cause, and you've got the naysayers out there," he said. "I just wish there was some way I could 100 percent reassure everyone. I would be publicly humiliated if I scammed people now."
Whittington said he has spoken with James on the phone and hopes to travel to Boston soon to work out how the money will be distributed to him. He said his new fundraising goal for James is $250,000, up from the $50,000 he originally hoped to raise.