No more walking to work: Detroit man given a Ford Taurus and $330,000

James Robertson of Detroit walked 21 miles to and from work for over a decade. Now, within weeks, everything changes with the generosity of strangers.

Rebecca Cook/Reuters
Detroit resident James Robertson (C) poses with banker Blake Pollock (L) and Wayne State University student Evan Leedy, after Robertson was surprised with a 2015 red Ford Taurus sedan as a free gift at the Suburban Ford dealership in Sterling Heights, Michigan, February 6, 2015.

James Robertson of Detroit could not afford a car to drive to work, which resulted in him walking more than 20 miles a day to and from his job for more than a decade. After his story gained nationwide attention and a 19-year-old college student raised more than $330,000 to help Mr. Robertson, he began to share what he thought his dream car would be.

"I'm a Ford fan. I remember the Taurus. They look comfortable, nothing fancy. They're simple on the outside, strong on the inside — like me," he told the Detroit Free Press.

On Friday, he got his wish when a Michigan car dealership gifted him a Ford Taurus by surprise.

David Fischer Jr. with Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights was one of many people to offer Robertson a mode of transportation after hearing his story. Many who saw the article in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press were impressed with Robertson’s work ethic and perfect attendance throughout years of an impossible commute. When Mr. Fischer gave Robertson the car, he said it was an emotional experience.

“He pretty much started crying in the car and I was like, ‘James, you can't do that. You'll make me cry too,'" said Fischer, reported FOX News.

Without a car, Robertson’s daily commute was enough to make anyone cringe. Through Detroit’s harsh winters and simmering summers, he’d begin by taking a bus to an upscale mall in Troy. From there, he walked about 7 miles to the factory where he was employed. At the end of his 2 - 10 p.m. shift he would walk back to the mall and catch the last bus to Detroit, which would take him to the city’s border. He would finish his commute by walking the last 5 miles in the dark. He did this every work day for a decade, after his car broke down in 2005.

Evan Leedy, the 19-year-old computer student from Wayne State University who launched a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for Robertson, has raised over $330,000 to help the man with expenses. He now has a new car, and enough money to cover its expenses for a long time into the future. The GoFundMe campaign ends on Sunday, Feb. 8 at 11:59 p.m.

"I'm always going to be in your debt — I will never forget this," Robertson told Leedy when they met at a pizza shop for the first time, reported the Grand Haven Tribune. The two hugged, and Leedy shared some of the thousands of responses from people who donated anywhere from $1 to hundreds in support of Robertson.

"James ask for advice with handling the money and putting it in a trust fund. And that's in the works for next week," Leedy said, reported FOX News.

Banker Blake Pollock, 47, originally brought Robertson’s story to the Detroit Free Press after passing Robertson on his commute day after day, regardless of the weather. He began giving him rides, and now that Robertson is the proud owner of his own vehicle, Mr. Pollock is assembling a board of advisors to help Robertson manage his newfound financial situation. The board will set aside much of the funds for future vehicle expenses—such as maintenance, gas, and insurance—and will also use some of the money to help with medical and dental care, Pollock told the Detroit Free Press.

While Robertson has been blown away way the overwhelming response of strangers to help him, at the same time he is not surprised at people’s generosity. They filled a need without his asking, and now his life is forever changed.

Robertson told the Detroit Free Press: "I gotta’ say, this is Detroit, this is how people are in Detroit. They say Los Angeles is the city of angels. That's wrong. Detroit is the real city of angels.”

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