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Homeless man thanked for gesture of integrity

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 9:06 p.m.
 

BOSTON — The honesty of a homeless man who handed a lost, cash-filled backpack over to police has inspired more than $150,000 in donations to a fund set up in his honor, the fund's organizer said Friday.

Ethan Whittington, of Midlothian, Va., traveled to Boston this week to meet with Glen James and give him the good news of his financial windfall.

James was hailed as a hero last month after he turned in a backpack he found at a mall. It contained more than $2,000 in cash and nearly $40,000 in traveler's checks.

When Whittington, 28, read about James' honesty, he started a fund on the crowd-funding website gofundme.com. Since then, more than 6,000 donations have come in from people around the globe, raising slightly more than $150,000 by late Friday afternoon.

Whittington said when he met James in Boston on Thursday, he shook his hand and gave him a hug.

“He kept saying, ‘Thank you,' ” Whittington said. “You've got to continue to remind him that he is one who should be thanked, and he is the one who inspired people around the world because of his good deed.”

Whittington said he and James talked about ways for James to use the money to improve his life. He said James' sister has found a lawyer who is setting up a trust fund for him. James has found an apartment and is looking into job training programs.

Whittington read about James when Boston police honored him with a special citation for turning in the backpack.

James could not be reached for comment.

During a press conference at Boston police headquarters last month, James, who is in his 50s, handed out a hand-written statement saying he has been homeless since losing his job as a file clerk in a Boston courthouse in 2005. He said it would be difficult for him to hold down a job because he suffers from an inner ear disorder that causes episodes of vertigo.

He said he never considered keeping the money in the backpack.

“Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny,” he said in the statement.

Whittington said he's been overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers who donated to the fund.

“Really, for me, it kind of restores your faith in the human race,” he said. “You get to see that there are some good people out there. We can come together and accomplish something together.”

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