Donations for Honest Homeless Man Tops $100K

Boston homeless man Glen James returned a backpack with $40,000 in it.

September 19, 2013, 12:30 PM
PHOTO: Glen James
Glen James at a news conference at police headquarters, in Boston, Sept. 16, 2013.
Steven Senne/AP Photo

Sept. 19, 2013 — -- Fundraising for a Boston homeless man heralded as an honest guy after handing in a backpack he found that contained over $40,000 in cash and travelers checks has topped more than $104,000 in just a few days.

"I'm in complete shock," Ethan Whittington, the man who organized the fundraiser, told today with a laugh. "It's more money than I've ever seen."

"It's completely changing my life," he said. "It gets you thinking. Imagine the possibilities if we continue to do this as a nation. It's so inspiring to see the way that everyone is coming together."

The money has been raised by more than 4,000 strangers since the campaign was posted on on Monday. Donations and messages have poured in from all over the U.S. as well as countries as far as Brazil, France and Australia.

Whittington has set the effort's fundraising goal at $250,000.

"There's no mathematical equation on why I did that," he said of the quarter of a million dollar amount. "I just want to see what we can do."

Glen James found the black backpack with $2,400 in cash, $39,500 in travelers checks and a passport at the South Bay Mall in Dorchester on Saturday evening. He promptly reported it to police.

Officers then returned the bag to the owner, a student visiting from China, and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis presented a special citation to James for his "extraordinary show of character and honesty."

The fundraising campaign began when Whittington heard about what James had done, but it didn't mention James getting anything other than a plaque.

"Beautiful! I pray that he is blessed beyond measure for his act of integrity and kindness," one woman wrote on the GoFundMe page. "We could all take a lesson from him. Someone help him invest wisely and all will be well!"

"Nicest idea I can think of for a man who deserves this miracle," another person wrote.

Many people have contacted Whittington about James and expressed interest in doing this for him including donating computers to James, providing him dental care and helping him find a job.

Whittington last spoke to James on Tuesday when the donation amount was at $15,000 and James was "ecstatic," he said.

Whittington suggested to James the possibility of someone to help him with handling the money when he gets it.

"I want to be very careful about how we go about doing it," Whittington said. "It's a lot of money. If someone came up to me and handed me a hundred grand I wouldn't know what the hell to do with it."

"I want this to come out to be a positive influence for his life, not for it to be completely out of control and then we have some horror story a couple of months from now," he said.

Whittington is planning to travel to Boston to meet James in person and find out more about his life.

"I have the best intentions for Glen," he said. "There's only so much I can do. I'm going to give him 150 percent of my effort to do what I can to help him out, but it's his money. I can't make these decisions for him."