PHILADELPHIA (AP)Courtesy(Daily News)
A New Jersey woman who was helped by a homeless veteran when she ran out of gas in Philadelphia is raising money to help him.
Kate McClure was heading to Philadelphia to visit a friend last month when she ran out of gas on Interstate 95. The Florence Township woman pulled over and began to worry until a homeless man approached her.
“Johnny sits on the side of the road every day, holding a sign. He saw me pull over and knew something was wrong,” wrote McClure on the Go Fund Me site. “He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors. A few minutes later, he comes back with a red gas can. Using his last 20 dollars to make sure I could get home safe.”
McClure promised she would return to pay him. McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, have since raised over $40,000 for the man, whom the Philadelphia Inquirer identifies as Johnny Bobbitt Jr., 34, a former ammunition technician in the U.S. Marines.
That’s when Johnny, a homeless man who often sits on the guard rail at the exit ramp, reading a book, depending on the kindness of strangers, appeared out of the night.
Johnny told her to lock her doors, sit tight, and he’d spend his last $20 to buy gas a few blocks away. “He said, ‘I’ll be back. Trust me,’ ” said McClure, who works for the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
McClure had no cash to pay Johnny. She promised to come back and repay him. He trusted her as she had trusted him, and one random act of kindness soon inspired another.
“Ten minutes later,” D’Amico said, “she called me and said the guy brought her gas.”
The next day, the Florence couple drove by, thanked Johnny again, and repaid him. “We drove away and went on with our lives,” D’Amico said. But they kept returning, giving Johnny a few dollars each time, and talking for a few minutes.
They learned he is Johnny Bobbitt Jr., 34, from the Raleigh, N.C., area. He was an ammunition technician in the Marines. His Facebook page includes photos and posts that trace a romantic relationship from its happier days to its 2014 breakup. He studied hard while training to be a paramedic and then worked long shifts, according to his Facebook posts, where a smiling Johnny stands tall in front of a medical rescue helicopter. In August 2014, Johnny posted that he aspired to be a flight nurse.
D’Amico, a building contractor, said one day they were talking about luck in people’s lives. “Johnny said, ‘Yeah, tell me about bad luck. But don’t get me wrong. I’m here because of my own decisions. I got nobody to blame but myself.’ ”
A friend in North Carolina who had been close to Johnny said he has a “good heart,” was a talented paramedic, and was smart enough to become a doctor. The friend, who did not want to be identified by name, said Johnny’s life took an unfortunate turn because of drugs, and eventually money problems. According to public records, he had involvement with the criminal justice system in North Carolina.
In perhaps a premonition of his future, Johnny posted in November 2014: “It’s never too late to turn it all around. Be honest with yourself and others.”
He’s been homeless in Philadelphia for a year and a half.
The Burlington County couple were struck by Johnny’s willingness to take responsibility for his situation, and by his caring attitude toward two homeless buddies he lives with under a bridge.
Recently, D’Amico texted McClure, “I can’t stop thinking about this guy. I think about him all the time.”
To his surprise, McClure texted back, “OMG! Me, too!”
D’Amico went through his old winter clothes and pulled out an Eagles hoodie, a black knit cap, and black insulated gloves. He and McClure went to a Target and bought a six-pack of tube socks, a bunch of granola bars, and basic toiletries. They put everything into a backpack and brought it to Johnny, along with a blanket and two $10 Wawa gift cards.
“He was very excited,” D’Amico said. “He shook my hand and he gave her a bear hug,” McClure said, “He said he’d go to Wawa right away and buy dinner. He loves the pepperoni hoagies.”
“And the pepperoni and cheese bagels,” D’Amico said.
McClure said Johnny made it clear that he would share their gifts with his two buddies. “They all look out for each other,” she said. “Mark and I got back in the car and we were like, ‘Man, if we could change this guy’s life.’ And that’s when we came up with the idea of GoFundMe.”
“Johnny has reflected on his life,” D’Amico said. “He just needs a push in the right direction. I can’t imagine how hard it is. He’s from the Carolinas. He’s a thousand miles from home with nothing, nobody. Things probably snowballed to where he’s living under a bridge.”
McClure said Johnny told them he wants to live in Robbinsville, N.J., and work at the Amazon warehouse there because the company offers health benefits.
“He definitely has the drive,” D’Amico said. “He doesn’t want to be on the streets anymore. He wants to be a functioning member of society and not be sitting on a guard rail in Philadelphia.
“He knows where he’s at and he knows what he has to do to dig himself out,” D’Amico said. “It’s almost impossible to dig himself out if he has nobody and nothing. If we can raise enough money to set him up for a few months, where he doesn’t have to worry about where he’s going to sleep and what he’s going to eat, then he can get a job and go about his life.”
The pair hopes to get Bobbitt an apartment and help with transportation.
The gofundme is now over $54k at the time of this posting.
I want to personally thank this couple for helping this Marine, homelessness is a huge problem in our community. This goes to show, that even when at some of their worst points our Marines still worry about others.
Here is a video of Johnny reciveing the news about the money from the Gofundme.