Students raised more than $200,000 for their 80-year-old school janitor to retire after a rent hike sent him back into the workforce
Students at a Texas high school have raised more than $200,000 to help the school custodian retire.
Mr. James was forced out of his retirement this year when his rent was raised.
"Nobody deserves to work their whole life," a student who helped start the GoFundMe campaign said.
Students at Callisburg High School in Texas have raised more than $200,000 to help the school's 80-year-old janitor, Mr. James, retire after a rent hike sent him back into the workforce. As of Thursday, the fund had raised $217,000 from nearly 7,000 donors.
The GoFundMe campaign, set up on February 15 by three students, originally had a goal of $10,000 to cover Mr. James' rent, food, and monthly bills.
"Hey guys, I'm having a fundraiser for our janitor who is struggling to pay his rent," the campaign, posted by a student named Greyson Thurman, read. "He had to leave retirement to continue to pay his rent that was raised. Just a little will change his life!"
Thurman first shared the campaign on TikTok, where it's been viewed nearly 20,000 times.
@grey.thurman Go fund me is in the bio! My classmates and I hate seeing Mr. James here, no one his age should have to be cleaning our messes up to continue to live. #fyp#school#gofundme#fy#mrjames ♬ snowfall - Øneheart & reidenshi
The local Fox affiliate KDFW reported Mr. James' rent had risen by about $400 a month. To pay it, he had to take the custodial job in January. When Callisburg students heard about that, a few decided to set up a GoFundMe campaign on his behalf. They then asked Thurman, who had more than 2,000 followers at the time, to post it in hopes it might go viral.
"We knew being in a small town like Callisburg that people would want to help and people would want to support us, especially with something like this, but I don't think we ever imagined that there'd be, like, news channels here," a student named Marti Yousko told the outlet Wednesday. According to Yousko, when Mr. James heard about the crowdfunding effort, he responded, "Dang, that's all right!"
Strangers on TikTok are commending the teens for their kindness. "The future looks brighter because of what you guys are doing," a commenter wrote.
Mr. James, whom Yousko described as sweet and "very shy, very quiet," declined to be interviewed by KDFW Fox 4. Jason Hooper, the principal of Callisburg High School, said Mr. James didn't want "any part of the spotlight" but was "very appreciative of what these students have done."
Thurman told the outlet last week, when donations totaled $28,000, that he and the students just wanted Mr. James to retire in peace. He added that the janitor had already worked 70 years, saying: "Nobody deserves to work their whole life. They deserve to enjoy everything."
While individual crowdfunding campaigns can oversimplify issues or detract from creating sustainable solutions to major societal ills, turning to social media can give people agency and a cause to rally behind.
In January 2022, TikTokers helped raise more than $100,000 for a Walmart cashier to afford retirement. In November, a TikToker raised more than $186,000 so that an 81-year-old Walmart employee could pay off her mortgage and retire.
Retirement isn't something millions of US workers can afford. A 2021 Boston College study found 36% of older Americans didn't have the savings to take care of themselves for even a year. And the pandemic has forced some older people to dip into their retirement savings early. In a survey conducted by the reverse-mortgage lender American Advisors Group, 30% of older people polled said that the pandemic had a "negative impact" on their retirement plans, with one in five respondents saying they had to use retirement funds to cover life expenses.
Thurman and Hooper didn't immediately respond to a request from Insider to get in touch with Mr. James.
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