Oct. 4, 2013 at 10:16 AM ET
A homeless man who became a hero in his hometown of Boston after turning in a backpack full of money is benefiting from another good deed, one that he inspired.
Three weeks ago, Glen James discovered an abandoned backpack at a Boston strip mall. He peeked inside and found a passport — and more than $40,000 in cash and travelers checks.
“I noticed a lot of hundred-dollar bills, and I said ‘Oh my goodness, this has to get back to its rightful owner,’” James recalled to NBC’s Kerry Sanders.
James turned the bag over to Boston police, who rewarded his scrupulous action with a plaque and a civil ceremony.
More than 500 miles away in Midlothian, Va., Ethan Whittington read about the story online. He decided the good Samaritan deserved more than a plaque, so he started an online campaign to help James. The effort has raised more than $148,000 from people around the world. A trust has been created to help with tax issues and to ensure the funds are used specifically to help James and not get spent on drugs or alcohol.
On Thursday, Whittington flew to Boston to meet James for the first time.
“Thanks for everything,” James said during their meeting in an NBC affiliate studio.
“Thank YOU — you’re the one who deserves the thank you for sure,” Whittington responded.
Whittington said he’s been inspired both by what James did and by the way people responded to his effort to help.
"I never expected it to be the way it has, and to change my life the way it has," he said.
James said the experience caught him off guard.
“This is a total surprise and shock to me that it has gone this far,” he said.
Efforts are now underway to find a home for James near his sister.
“It's definitely going to change my life in a positive and big way,” he said.