Update: More than $180k donated to man walking 21 miles a day to work

Submitted by StephenRKass on February 3rd, 2015 at 12:18 PM

Yesterday, MGoUser Libertine posted the following link regarding a man who walks a total of 21 miles round trip EVERY SINGLE DAY to get to work in Rochester. It was a human interest story in the Sunday Freep.

LINK:  http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/oakland/2015/01/31/detroit-commuting-troy-rochester-hills-smart-ddot-ubs-banker-woodward-buses-transit/22660785/

Today, in a followup article, the Freep has an update with what happened in response to the original article. A teen put together a GoFundMe account, and as of this morning, more than $180k in donations have been received on behalf of the carless Detroiter. There also have been offers from local dealers (and presumably, from others) of a car for James Robertson.

LINK:  Followup article on carless Detroiter James Robertson

It is great to see the generosity of many. The banker (Blake Pollack) who brought the story to the attention of the Freep is assembling a board of advisers to help Mr. Robertson in managing the money. He is not planning on changing the way he lives, but in setting aside most of the money for future needs (insurance, gas, later health care, retirement, etc.)

James Robertson is keeping things in perspective:

"I have to be careful how I act about this. The same God who brings you all these blessings can take them away," he said.

"Hopefully, I'm ready for what happens."

From my perspective, one of the great outcomes, beyond the help for Mr. Robertson, is to see dialogue opened on the need for mass transportation, and at least a little discussion on the need for a living wage.

NOTE:  I looked for a link at the Detroit News, but I guess because this article was only at the Freep, it makes sense that the followup is only at the Freep. (For those of you who hate Freep links, and will never go there.) Personally, I think the Freep deserves credit for a good story, at least in this instance.

EDIT: Just below, LilPenny1316 has found non-Freep links for those who prefer them.



February 3rd, 2015 at 12:52 PM ^

Those working in the upstream market are going to be in a world of hurt for the next few years unfortunately.  I am not sure what types of training you are doing but if it relates to construction/engineering or safety I would recommend looking at gas distribution.  That market continues to be very strong particularly in the Northeast and Midwest.

There is a massive and growing amount of spending underway related to replacement of natural gas distribution infrastructure and there are not enough qualified people out there to get the work done.  If you are looking for something with stability (though a fair amount of bureaucracy) check out the major gas utilities such as NiSource, PECO, ConEd, PSE&G, AGL, NiCor, etc.

If you like more verity look at some of the big gas distribution contractors, NPL, Miller Pipeline, Quanta companies like InfraSource (based in Ann Arbor).  There is a lot of opportunity in that market that should stay strong until at least 2025 and have much less volatility then you are seeing in oil and gas E&P.

Good luck in the job search.    


February 3rd, 2015 at 1:28 PM ^

Our gas utility (MichCon) is heavy into the gas transmission and storage business growing quite nicely in the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic, not to mention redesigning and rebuilding the gas infrastructure within the state of Michigan as well. It seems like there is always an opening or two on the gas side of the business for field safety personnel as a result. 


February 3rd, 2015 at 2:06 PM ^

MichCon, Consumers and even some of the smaller operations like SEMCO in Port Huron have all doubled the size of their replacement programs in Michigan over the last two or three years.  MichCon in particular has a massive need with something like 4,000 miles of main in need of replacement.  For those of you with skills and interest in engineering & construction there are some good long careers to be had helping them get this done. 


February 3rd, 2015 at 12:31 PM ^

There is dignity in all work. I don't like how society has evolved, and how more than half the population is just a step away from disaster. I think the answer is more complicated than just raising the minimum wage, but that needs to be part of the discussion. In the case of James Robertson, he is making about 10 and a half bucks an hour: well more than the minimum wage, but still far less than needed to buy and maintain a car.


February 3rd, 2015 at 12:33 PM ^

will increasing minimum wage guarantee everything else remains the same price? or will all goods also increase to offset overhead costs, thus leaving us just as broke as before? what do the econ people around here believe? /ignore if this counts as political


February 3rd, 2015 at 12:48 PM ^

And not raise some of their prices or cut costs in other ways.  Minimum wage should not be a long-term living wage.  It should be an entry-level wage that you work your way up from.  

My question in this instance would be: How could this man work for the same employer all of these years and only have a salary that amounts to $22,000 before taxes and any insurance that he pays for?  His employer says nothing but nice things about him, so why no major increase in salary or position?


February 3rd, 2015 at 2:03 PM ^

I mean, it is nice and all that a banker gave him a ride to work, and that the supervisors and owners all love James Robertson, and feed him, at least sometimes. But is the wage structure such that there are lots of jobs like this at $10.55 an hour? And he just isn't suited for a promotion at all, or a raise? I get that there are plenty of entry level jobs where the pay range goes from minimum wage up to $10, $11, $12 an hour. But no one can live on $12 an hour. Well, it is hard. I suppose if you have 4 housemates sharing costs, you could make it work, but it isn't easy.

On a related tangent, this is why all you Michigan students need to work hard at school. (you didn't come to play school.) This gives  more opportunities for a living wage. This is why Michigan grads are thankful for the doors opened by a Michigan degree.


February 3rd, 2015 at 2:49 PM ^

A load of companies are trying to focus on recognition instead of bonuses or additional compensation for employees.

I think there is a point that at some point you hit a diminishing return on raising salaries to maintain workers but that a majority of workers especially those at the bottom would prefer more money.  Then again, there is a large group that'll complain no matter what they get paid so I suppose it'd be more effective on them.


February 3rd, 2015 at 4:48 PM ^

Agree with you there that based on what we know, it would seem that a salary adjustment is in order. But its hard to see it coming now, since those who have donated have really stepped up and given this guy a car/insurance/whatnot already.

I've don't understand the idea of having a minimum wage be less than a livable wage. While there are circumstances where the following is not true, we're essentially saying that its ok to pay people less than what it takes for people to live on. What that number is I don't know, but it seems to me that it's falling short for many people. 


February 3rd, 2015 at 1:48 PM ^

but my first job was not long ago making $5.15/hr in a grocery store (5c over minimum wage at the time) and if minimum wage went up, they probably would've just had less of us on shift at a time.

Now I expect you all to make wide sweeping conclusions about how the entire world economy will react to a minimum wage increase in Michigan


February 3rd, 2015 at 12:38 PM ^

Expecting a Drew Sharp op-ed any minute now about how the guy is totally going to blow the money and how someone who's not a B1G fan deserves to be featured as one of the Freep's Top 25 most interesting Metro Detroiters.


February 3rd, 2015 at 12:39 PM ^

A sad story with a wonderful ending.  I had to watch this on TV news several times due to my admiration for the man.

Hat's off to the wonderful folks that made this a happy ending.


February 3rd, 2015 at 12:48 PM ^

Hat's off to you. I have a community service worker who takes his bicycle to and from work, even with the heavy snow we've had in Chicago. Never late, great guy. Things are tight, and sometimes, choices in the past leave people with few good options.


February 3rd, 2015 at 1:00 PM ^

Anyone know how many homeless people are in Detroit alone?  How many homeless children?  Google it before you feel sorry for this guy and act like a hero for donating money to him.  We'll see what kind of man he really is.  If he takes $5000-$10000 and buys a decent, reliable used car and gives other people rides and donates the rest to homeless shelters around Detroit then I'll have respect for him.  If he keeps it then he's a scumbag.


February 3rd, 2015 at 1:14 PM ^

That argument is - let's see, how can I put this delicately..... - complete horseshit.

"If your life is really hard and people give you money to make it easier, you're a scumbag if you keep most of it."  That deserves all of the downvotes because it's one of the scummier things I've ever read.

Maybe you should be donating whatever fortune you have to homeless shelters, down to where you're at the poverty level this guy is in, before you decide what other people should do with their money.


February 3rd, 2015 at 1:19 PM ^

Help me out here.  If someone gives me money I should give most of it to charity?  What if I inherit money?  Does the same standard apply?  What about gambling winnings?  Is there a certain salary level where any extra money needs to go to charity?  Please let me know what I must do to not enter scum bag status.  If I am college educated and relatively well off is the standard different as opposed to someone who working class from Detroit?  You really need to provide more detail on what the right thing to do is here.  

Get Jim Harbaugh

February 3rd, 2015 at 1:45 PM ^

I cannot stand it when people say, "THAT MONEY SHOULD BE DONATED TO CHARITY!" That is so ridiculous. They're the same people who believe that it's the duty of the rich to donate and companies that earn profits should donate a portion of profits. How about no? People do with their money whatever they want. There is no rule that says donations are required. If I were a multimillionaire, I would not donate a dime to any charity.


February 3rd, 2015 at 1:56 PM ^

I work with the homeless in my city (major city, not Detroit) so know that this point comes from experience and not complete insensitivity. 

Anyone have any idea how many people starve to death every day in the world? How many of them are children? Google it before you feel sorry for homeless people in the US and act like a hero for donating money to them. We'll see what kind of people they really are. If they take 1-2 meals a day and live off of that and give the other 1-2 to the hungry around the world, I'll have respect for him. If they keep all of it, they're scumbags

Hard to play that game. You can help someone without simultaneously solving world hunger.


February 3rd, 2015 at 2:40 PM ^

Look, if someone gave me $200K, I'm doing the following things.

1. Buy a good, certified used car with low mileage, which will probably cost about $15-$20K.  

2. Enroll in a job development program and add a certification or degree to the years of work experience already stockpiled.

3. Buy a house where I can afford the taxes and purchase an investment property if I have the money to spare.

I love how you require this guy to work 40 hours a week and commute 40-60 miles each day, then spend the rest of his time chauferring people around.  His story alone merits respect. 


February 3rd, 2015 at 1:01 PM ^

I'm going to 'that guy' all over this and ask, why wouldn't the guy invest in a used bicycle?  The time saved could be used for things like sleep or a second PT job close to his residence.

Vengeful Barbarian

February 3rd, 2015 at 2:10 PM ^

agree he could have gotten a bike, but how good is that in a michigan winter? It also seems like there are other workers at the same factory he works that seem to be able to afford a car and insurance etc, but I get that they live somewhere else. In any case, I made a small donation because I wish him all the best, but there are too many people like him who are just barely making it in this country.