If anyone could have used $3,000, it’s Johnny Duckworth.
He doesn’t have a home of his own, a car that runs or a full-time job. But when the busboy found a sealed envelope holding what felt like a lot of money on the floor of the Colorado diner where he works, Duckworth brought it right to his boss.
“I dropped it in his hand and went back to work,” Duckworth, 50, told TODAY.com. “I didn’t think about the money. I was thinking about doing my job, getting it done.”
He added: “I did what I did because I got a heart. I love the customers here. They treat me really good and I give them the respect right back.”
His boss, Randy Emmons, was shocked to find 30 $100 bills inside, but was not surprised by his employee’s good deed.
“He’s one of the most honest people I know,” said Emmons, Duckworth’s boss of nearly a decade. “That’s life-changing money for him, and for him just to turn it in like it’s nothing, that’s something to me.”
The cash-stuffed envelope, found on Dec. 15 at Randy's Southside Diner in Grand Junction, Colorado, held a bank slip, so Emmons brought it to the bank. He later learned that the money belonged to Darrell Cox, who eats breakfast at the diner up to five times a week, and didn’t realize the money was in his jacket pocket and had fallen out.
Cox returned to give Duckworth, known by his childhood nickname “Thumper,” $300 for his honesty.
“It made me feel good to know there’s people out there in this world who are still super honest,” said Cox, 74, who had withdrawn the money for Christmas presents. “If he had taken that and put it in his pocket, I would never have known where it went.”
Hoping to help Duckworth get a place of his own, Emmons created an online fundraiser called “Tip Thumper.” Since Friday, donations have topped $14,000 and are climbing.
Duckworth, who works 25 hours a week (and more if the work is available), has fallen on hard times. He lost the trailer where he lived about three years ago, and money is garnished from his paychecks for medical bills, Emmons says. At night, he stays with friends or family, sometimes biking to work in the cold and snow rather than asking for a ride.
Although he needs money, he says it doesn’t mean much to him.
“Money is just a piece of paper to me,” Duckworth said. “You have to pay bills and it’s gone the next day, so I really don’t care for it.”
Still, he is thankful to hopefully be getting a place of his own. “It’s going to change my life way, way better than it was before,” Duckworth said. “I can’t wait to get it going, get off the streets, quit being cold and I want my life back.”
Duckworth says he is grateful to all who have donated. “I wish I could tell them all ‘Thank you’ and meet them face to face,” he said.
Emmons, who is already working with real estate agents, said Duckworth is greatly deserving.
“He’d give away his last dollar if he thought they could use it,” Emmons said, “even though he needs it himself.”
TODAY.com contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter: @lisaflam