After working hard all your life, retirement should be about relaxing and enjoying the fruits of your labor. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Mr. James, the 80-year old janitor at Callisburg High School in Texas.
After a rent hike, his retirement money was not enough to pay for rent and bills, and he had to go back into the workforce.
Mr. James went back to work after realizing that his retirement money would be easily depleted since his rent had risen by about $400 a month.
When Callisburg students heard the news, a few decided to set up a GoFundMe campaign for Mr. James.
They enlisted the help of fellow student Greyson Thurman, who had more than 2,000 followers at the time, hoping that his post would go viral. Thurman was more than willing to help raise the retirement money for Mr. James.
The campaign to raise retirement money for Mr. James soon gained ground, even reaching various news outlets.
Marti Yousko, one of the students who spearheaded the effort, said, “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.”
She shared that Mr. James was also happy with the crowdfunding effort, and exclaimed “Dang, that’s alright!” when he found out what the students were doing for him. High school senior Banner Tidwell expressed that it was “sad to see an 80-year-old man having to do things an 80-year-old shouldn’t.”
Yousko described Mr. James as sweet and “very shy, very quiet.” He declined to be interviewed even as the fundraising campaign for his retirement money gained traction on the news and social media.
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.”
The students created the GoFundMe campaign on February 15, 2023, with the goal of raising $10,000 to cover Mr. James’s rent, food, and monthly bills.
On the GoFundMe page, Thurman posted, “Hey guys, I’m having a fundraiser for our janitor who is struggling to pay his rent. 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 more than 25,000 times.
The fundraiser raised $10,000 in the first 12 hours, with most of the donations coming from students.
Thurman shared, “When I saw the money come in, that really gave me faith in today’s world.” The students have since raised Mr. James’ retirement money amounting to $270,905 through the kindness of 8,600 donors.
Yousko said that the students did not expect the campaign to be as successful as it was. “It’s crazy to see. We knew people would want to help but we didn’t know it would blow up,” she said.
Hooper said he is proud of his students and others who have pitched in, and stated, “It’s just amazing. The need was met because of three kind kids. But all of our students have pitched in to help.” Tidwell added, “I think it’s really cool that us teenagers can do something like this.”
Strangers on TikTok commended the teens for their kindness, with some stating, “The future looks brighter because of what you guys are doing!” When the donations were still around $28,000, Thurman shared that they wanted to help raise the retirement money so that Mr. James could retire in peace.
“He’s already worked 70 years … nobody deserves to work their whole life. They deserve to enjoy everything,” he said.
Thurman thanked everyone who has donated or helped spread the word regarding Mr. James’ story and the effort to raise his retirement money. “You all have made a huge impact on him that will forever change his life,” he said.
This is a heartwarming example of the power of young people and how they can use technology and social media to create positive change, and simply show kindness for others. In difficult times, people are still willing to work together to help others in need. Watch Mr. James’ story in the video below: