Help James Robertson Get a Car

$350,009 of $25k goal

Raised by 13,280 people in 19 months
Evan Leedy   TROY, MI
FULL STORY HERE!

James Robertson doesn't look like an endurance athlete.

Pudgy of form, shod in heavy work boots, Robertson trudges almost haltingly as he starts another workday.

But as he steps out into the cold, Robertson, 56, is steeled for an Olympic-sized commute. Getting to and from his factory job 23 miles away in Rochester Hills, he'll take a bus partway there and partway home. And he'll also walk an astounding 21 miles.

Five days a week. Monday through Friday.

It's the life Robertson has led for the last decade, ever since his 1988 Honda Accord quit on him.

Every trip is an ordeal of mental and physical toughness for this soft-spoken man with a perfect attendance record at work. And every day is a tribute to how much he cares about his job, his boss and his coworkers. Robertson's daunting walks and bus rides, in all kinds of weather, also reflect the challenges some metro Detroiters face in getting to work in a region of limited bus service, and where car ownership is priced beyond the reach of many.

But you won't hear Robertson complain — nor his boss.

James Robertson, 56, of Detroit, walks toward Woodward Ave. in Detroit to catch his morning bus to Somerset Collection in Troy before walking to his job at Schain Mold & Engineering in Rochester Hills on Thursday January 29, 2015. James walks 21 miles daily round trip to his job.Robertson's roundtrip commute requires a bus ride each direction as well as nearly 21-miles of walking consuming 22 hours of his day before beginning again throughout the work week.

The sheer time and effort of getting to work has ruled Robertson's life for more than a decade, ever since his car broke down. He didn't replace it because, he says, "I haven't had a chance to save for it." His job pays $10.55 an hour, well above Michigan's minimum wage of $8.15 an hour but not enough for him to buy, maintain and insure a car in Detroit.

As hard as Robertson's morning commute is, the trip home is even harder.

At the end of his 2-10 p.m. shift as an injection molder at Schain Mold's squeaky-clean factory just south of M-59, and when his coworkers are climbing into their cars, Robertson sets off, on foot — in the dark — for the 23-mile trip to his home off Woodward near Holbrook. None of his coworkers lives anywhere near him, so catching a ride almost never happens.

Instead, he reverses the 7-mile walk he took earlier that day, a stretch between the factory and a bus stop behind Troy's Somerset Collection shopping mall.

"I keep a rhythm in my head," he says of his seemingly mechanical-like pace to the mall.

At Somerset, he catches the last SMART bus of the day, just before 1 a.m. He rides it into Detroit as far it goes, getting off at the State Fairgrounds on Woodward, just south of 8 Mile. By that time, the last inbound Woodward bus has left. So Robertson foots it the rest of the way — about 5 miles — in the cold or rain or the mild summer nights, to the home he shares with his girlfriend.

At the plant, coworkers feel odd seeing one of their team numbers always walking, says Charlie Hollis, 63, of Pontiac. "I keep telling him to get him a nice little car," says Hollis, also a machine operator.

Echoes the plant manager Wilson, "We are very much trying to get James a vehicle." But Robertson has a routine now, and he seems to like it, his coworkers say.

"If I can get away, I'll pick him up. But James won't get in just anybody's car. He likes his independence," Wilson says.

Robertson has simple words for why he is what he is, and does what he does. He speaks with pride of his parents, including his father's military service.

"I just get it from my family. It's a lot of walking, I know."

This goal would help James get a nice vehicle along with a few months of insurance payments. Thank you everyone for helping James get back into a car!
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Update 18
18 months ago
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I don’t even know how to start this message. One week ago, I never imagined I would have the privilege to ride on this amazing journey to change a man’s life. Nor did I expect to gain two best friends, James & Blake. I have to be honest, on Sunday morning I stopped in the middle of creating the GoFundMe page thinking, “Who’s going to donate to some 19 year old’s fundraiser to buy a guy a car?” God kept tugging at me and all I could think was that it wouldn’t hurt to try, and even if I only raised a few hundred bucks, it was better than nothing. This story initially inspired Jiyan, Maggie, and myself to create fundraisers to help James, but it went on to touch hearts across the world, and with the help of thousands of donors, James’ life is changed forever. Yesterday, I got the chance to be with James & Blake without a camera crew for the first time. To just be there enjoying each other’s company was amazing in itself, and I look forward to more time with James & Blake in the future. Before James drove off in his new car to go home, he gave me a big hug and said “It’s not even about the money and the car, it’s about random strangers like you and Blake wanting to help a guy like me just doing what I was blessed to do.” Of course, the tears in my eyes started flowing but at that moment I knew James is still the same guy he was seven days ago.

The words do not exist to describe how grateful I am for everyone’s generosity, support, and kind words. The 13,000+ donors as well as everyone who left their kind words for James have all had a part in changing this guy’s life, and I am forever grateful. I really do not think this is the end, and I don’t think this will be the final update. I think there is a bigger plan behind all of this and I am excited to find out exactly what that is. But in the mean time, a lot of people have asked what is next for James. Employees from Honigman Miller, UBS Financial Services, and Tobias, Vandeputte & Skulsky, P.C. have stepped up to provide any needed services to James pro bono to make sure the donations are handled in the best possible way. Of course, James is also enjoying his new car instead of the sidewalk! This week has been full of roadblocks, but EVERY SINGLE problem that has come up was solved in a matter of hours. A lot of people have said this already, but I will say it myself: Faith in humanity restored.

There were so many people involved behind the scenes with this fundraiser, and those people deserve a lot of thanks. Jiyan and Maggie created fundraisers for James as well, and they as well as their donors deserve some big recognition. I would also like to thank Blake Pollock, for noticing James almost two years ago and recently bringing this story to The Free Press. Blake has played such a huge role in everything this week and I cannot thank him enough for his efforts and friendship. I would also like to thank Bill Laitner, who wrote the original article in The Free Press, which spread to countries all around the world. I would also like to thank Ford Motor Company as well as Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights for providing James the car of his dreams. I would also like to thank AAA, Ledges Group Insurance Agency for providing James with affordable insurance at a moment’s notice. Finally, I would like to thank the donors. The one’s who donated to a man they had never met before, but were so inspired by his story. James is forever grateful for your support. This has changed my life forever and my hope is that James has changed yours as well. The phrase, “It only takes a spark to light a fire”, fits well here in my opinion, and while he is ABC’s Person of the Week, he is my Person of the Year.

I will be compiling every single comment from donors and GoFundMe users to give to James to read. A lot of people have asked where they can send James letters, packages, ect. Any mail can be sent to James Robertson, 2002 Stephenson Hwy, Troy, MI 48083. Anything sent to that address will be passed along to James. Mail addressed to Blake Pollock or myself will also be accepted at this address.
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Update 17
18 months ago
It has been an incredible day. A huge shoutout to Ford Motor Company and Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights for donating the car of James' dreams. Also, big thanks to AAA, Ledges Group Insurance Agency for providing insurance at the last second! And of course, thank you to all the amazing donors who changed this man's life around. Even with James' new car, of course he will still be receiving every penny from this fundraiser, as well as the fundraisers started by Jiyan and Maggie. Thank you all, and more updates to come!
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Update 16
18 months ago
THANK YOU EVERYONE!!! James got his car today!
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Update 15
19 months ago
I have posted this before but I know it's buried down at the bottom. The GFM pages by Jiyan and Maggie are legitimate. I am in contact with them.
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$350,009 of $25k goal

Raised by 13,280 people in 19 months
Created February 1, 2015
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