April 25, 2023 by Cathy Stack
Known simply and affectionately as “Mr. James” to the students in the high school where he worked, the 80-year-old custodian returned to work to help pay for a large increase in rent at his apartment building.
Three members of the school’s senior class, Greyson Thurman, Marti Yousko and Banner Tidwell, heard the news and decided to help their beloved custodian. They launched a GoFundMe campaign in his honor and unexpectedly raised more $270,000, which allows Mr. James to return to his retirement. Generous donations mostly came from students and staff.
“It's amazing. The need that was met because of three kind kids – of all our students who pitched in to meet that need,” said Callisburg High Principal Jason Hooper.
Callisburg High School recently hired Mr. James as custodian. Each day, students witnessed the sweet, elderly man doing a strenuous job that was meant for someone much younger. When students casually conversed with Mr. James, they discovered he had been forced out of retirement due to his apartment building’s recent $400-a-month rent increase.
Mr. James’ story is unfortunately not rare. The U.S. Department of Labor data estimated that 1.5 million retirees have had to rejoin the workforce due to the nation’s rising cost of living. In a recent survey, one in six retirees said they were considering returning to the workforce for greater financial security.
Greyson, Marti and Banner felt moved to help Mr. James with his predicament, and they devised a plan to post a donation request on TikTok. They recorded a short video of Mr. James hard at work, cleaning the school halls. They had originally hoped to raise $10,000 to help cover Mr. James’ rent, food and monthly bills.
The post hit heartstrings and unexpectedly went viral. In total, they raised over $270,000 from more than 7,000 caring donors.
“Nobody deserves to work their whole life. They deserve to enjoy everything,” said Greyson.
Mr. James was very grateful to the kindhearted teens for organizing the fundraiser. The campaign funds will allow Mr. James to return to retirement with financial security.
PassItOn and The Foundation for a Better Life believe that Greyson Thurman, Marti Yousko and Banner Tidwell are heroes. Their act is a great example of what it means to help others in need. They remind us of all the good we can do when we pull together to rise above societal challenges. Their kind action has greatly improved the quality of Mr. James’ life, allowing him to re-retire peacefully and comfortably. Help us honor them by sharing their heartwarming story.
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