'We Were Just Impressed': Man With 21-Mile Roundtrip Walking Commute Receives Car, $40,000 From Strangers

| by Jared Keever
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It wasn’t even planned, but it took less than a day. 

Less than 24 hours after the Detroit Free Press ran a story about 56-year-old James Robertson and his grueling 21-mile roundtrip walking commute, people, moved by his story, have banded to together to raise money to help Robertson with his long, and sometimes frigid, commute.

The original story ran Sunday morning. By that evening 19-year-old Evan Leedy, a student at nearby Wayne State University, had set up a GoFundMe site with a modest $5,000 goal to help Robertson buy a car. 

“I just used my phone. I created the go-funding site and within an hour we had $2,000,” Leedy told the Detroit Free Press in a follow-up story.

By the time the story went to press, the site had raised $30,000. It has now raised more than $40,000. 

Leedy said he plans to combine those funds with a couple of other sites that have also raised money. 

Why all the support?

“We were just impressed with his determination,” said Angela Osborne, a sales manager at a Chevrolet dealership in the area. 

Determination is something Robertson is definitely not short of. He’s been commuting, on foot and by bus, for over a decade; ever since his 1988 Honda Accord stopped running. 

His morning commute into work includes an eight-mile walk to the nearest bus stop where he can then hop a bus, catch a quick nap and ride the rest of the way to Schain Mold & Engineering to start his 2 p.m. shift. 

By the time he is off at 10 p.m. there are fewer buses running, so he walks 13 miles before he can catch a bus to his home. He usually doesn’t get in until 4 a.m. 

He does it all for his $10.55 an hour and says he just hasn’t been able to save to buy another car. 

Now he doesn’t have to. And he isn’t going to have to use the GoFundMe money to buy the car either.

Osborne said she has arranged with the owner of her dealership, Rodgers Chevrolet, to donate a car to Robertson — either a 2014 Chevrolet Cruz or Sonic. 

“He gets to choose,” she said. 

The money raised will likely be put in a fund to pay for gas, insurance and maintenance. 

Insurance is going to be expensive. Detroit has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. But figuring that out doesn’t seem so daunting, not after a decade of walking 21 miles to and from work. 

“I can work that insurance thing out,” Robertson said. “It might be tough, but my dad used to say, tough times don't last — tough people do.”

Sources: Detroit Free Press (Feb. 1)GoFundMeDetroit Free Press (Feb. 2)

Photo Credit: Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press