Virginia Man Who Started Fundraiser For Glen James Is Heading to Boston
Virginia resident Ethan Whittington has never been to Boston, and he didn’t have plans to make a trip to the city anytime soon, either. That is, until a fundraiser he started—for a homeless man who selflessly turned in a lost bag of cash he found in Dorchester—surpassed its goal of $50,000.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” said Whittington about the online fundraiser. Whittington had to use his lunch break on Wednesday to call back the throngs of news reporters from around the country who have contacted him about his money-raising efforts, on GoFundMe.com, for Glen James. “The heat is still coming. It’s a continuous flow it seems like. It’s becoming even bigger than what I ever thought it could be.”
Last weekend, James, who is homeless, found a backpack containing more than $40,000 in traveler’s checks, along with someone’s passport, while at the South Bay Center. James decided rather than keep the bag of money for himself, he would turn it over to police, who later got it back in the hands of its rightful owner.
James’ actions led to a ceremony on his behalf, held by the Boston Police Department, where he was awarded a citation of recognition.
But for Whittington, that didn’t seem to be enough, so he started an online crowd-sourced fundraiser which in two days skyrocketed, garnering international attention, and bringing in more than $90,000 and counting—as of Thursday— from more than 2,900 donors. “There are a lot of moving parts going on right now,” said Whittington. “People are offering to do lifetime dental work for Glen, people are offering to help find a house for him, and donating the commission from the sale of the house to him… Glen mentioned that he wanted to get out of the shelter, and that he wanted his own place, and I think we will be able to provide that for him.”
Since surpassing the original funding goal, Whittington is now aiming for $250,000, since the story was picked up by television stations all over the country, and even referenced overseas. Simply by checking the GoFundMe page, users can see that donations continue to roll in by the minute, ranging anywhere from $5 to $500.
There has been some concern about whether or not James would receive the money raised on his behalf, and whether or not it would be donated in a lump sum, or through help of a financial advisor, but Whittington said he spoke to James over the phone on Tuesday, a day after launching the fundraiser, and that James expressed interest in getting some help to deal with the large sum of money he is expected to receive. “I don’t want to take any backlash for what we are trying to do, but I think most people would agree that some assistance would be needed, and he said he wanted it,” he said, adding that he is planning a trip to Boston in the next few weeks, and has reached out to officials from City Hall, including a contact at the Police Department, to discuss how the process will move forward.
He is also trying to make connections with Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots players to help spread the word about the fundraiser for James. “When I started out, I was thinking it was maybe $200 or $300 dollars that I would raise, and then after it was sent out, it exploded,” said Whittington. “It turned out to be a great thing, and I am glad I can help him out as much as I can, but at the same time I have never done any fundraising. There is going to have to be a little bit of work done from here. We are reaching for the stars. Anything goes, really.”
Whittington said he would leave it up to James when it comes to whether or not he wants to quietly receive the money without too much media attention, or if he would like to hold another ceremony, like the one where he received the citation from Boston Police, so that he could take the opportunity to thank the thousands of people who have offered up money to help him out. “I don’t know if he wants it publicized even. Maybe it will be a quiet deal. But whatever Glen wants to do, that’s what I want to do,” said Whittington.
Whittington said the support people have shown has inspired him to pursue more charity work in the future, so he can continue to lend a hand to those in need. “I wish I could reach out and help everybody, but this is a thing I have done just one time. Maybe it’s something I can look into doing more.”