AFRICANGLOBE – One week after he gained global attention for his 21 miles and two bus rides of daily commuting, Detroiter James Robertson looked no different.
But Robertson, 56, said that his once quiet, arduous life was forever changed. Strangers rush up to him now, after his face appeared on TV screens and newspaper pages around the world.
“I went to the casino on Saturday, and people wanted to get their pictures taken with me,” he said Sunday, laughing.
In the past, Robertson said he has visited Detroit’s casinos occasionally and gambles small amounts of his $10.55-per-hour wage.
Along with fame came fortune. About $350,000 sat Sunday night in a GoFundMe.com account for Robertson, as its teenage creator in Macomb Township prepared to close it at midnight.
Robertson, shoveling snow at the house where he lives in Detroit, wore the battered work boots in which he logged countless miles to his factory job in Rochester Hills, where he planned to punch in for Monday’s afternoon shift. But parked in view of his upstairs apartment was his new Ford Taurus — the gift of Suburban Ford in Sterling Heights.
Loaded with options, it was a surprise Friday, after Robertson told a succession of reporters that of all cars in the world, he’d like a Taurus because “it’s like me: simple on the outside, strong on the inside.”
Robertson said he didn’t know how much money he had coming. He said he’d soon meet with “the people who are going to help me look after that.” He’s to be coached by several unpaid financial advisers, said Blake Pollock, 47, of Rochester, a UBS banker who befriended Robertson last year at the side of the road. The cash is fully taxable, as with any gift of cash, according to tax experts.
Pollock, a UBS vice president/wealth management, said Friday he’d picked the financial advisers but declined to identify them until Robertson approves of them. Pollock said he would not be involved, nor attend the meeting with Robertson, to avoid a conflict of interest.
“He’s my friend and that’s it,” Pollock said.
Instead, Robertson is to have with him Evan Leedy, 19, of Macomb Township, a Wayne State University junior and computer expert who set up a GoFundMe.com page to help Robertson. In the first hours after the Free Press introduced Robertson’s plight, Leedy’s page drew donations from southeast Michiganders, but by week’s end, they were flowing in from around the world, and still rolling in Sunday night at $10, $25, $200, even $500.
As for shutting down the money machine, Leedy said: “I talked to James about it, and James wants to give people the opportunity to give to other causes. And I think James didn’t want people to think that he was greedy.”
By: Bill Laitner