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Fund set up for honest homeless man raises $98k

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 BOSTON (AP) -- A fund for a homeless man who turned in a backpack with more than $40,000 inside has collected nearly $98,000 - an overwhelming response that is a "statement to everyone in America," according to the man who started the donation drive.

Glen James flagged down a police officer Saturday after he found the backpack containing $2,400 in cash and almost $40,000 in traveler's checks at the South Bay Mall in Boston. The man who lost it told workers at a nearby store and they called police, who later returned the backpack to him.

Boston police honored James with a special citation Monday. After reading media accounts of James' honesty, a stranger, Ethan Whittington, started a fund for James on the crowdfunding site gofundme.com. By Thursday morning, $97,889 in donations had been made.

Whittington, a 27-year-old from Midlothian, Va., who is an accounts manager for a marketing firm, said he decided to try to raise money for James after reading about his honesty. Now Whittington says he's overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers.

"The fact that he's in the situation he is, being homeless, it blew my mind that he would do this (turn in the backpack)," Whittington said Wednesday.

"It's caught on like wildfire ever since," he said. "It's brought me a lot of hope. ... This isn't only about rewarding a great guy. I think it's a statement to everyone in America. If we come together and work toward one thing and work together, then we can make it happen."

Whittington said he's also encountered some skeptics who question whether his efforts to raise money for James could be a scam.

"It's almost kind of depressing, to do something for a great cause, and you've got the naysayers out there," he said.

"I just wish there was some way I could 100 percent reassure everyone. I would be publicly humiliated if I scammed people now."

Whittington said he has spoken with James on the phone and hopes to come to Boston soon to work out how the money will be distributed to James. He said his new fundraising goal for James is $250,000, up from the $50,000 he originally hoped to raise.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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