Puyallup Herald

Homeless man who returned $17K he found at food bank hopes to get a home with donations

Homeless man finds $17,000 outside of a food bank, turns it in

Keith Booth was shocked to find a bag of cash outside of the Sumner Food Bank. He decided to turn the bag in to the food bank who later found it contained $17,000. The food bank is going to use the money to expand its building.
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Keith Booth was shocked to find a bag of cash outside of the Sumner Food Bank. He decided to turn the bag in to the food bank who later found it contained $17,000. The food bank is going to use the money to expand its building.

Kevin Booth has enjoyed his time in the spotlight.

Two weeks ago, Booth, who’s experiencing homelessness, was recognized for turning in $17,000 in cash he found outside the Sumner Food Bank over the summer.

Now, Booth finds himself in possession of another large sum of money — this time, more than $14,000 in GoFundMe donations.

In an interview with The Puyallup Herald this week, Booth had something he wanted to say to those who reached out to support him.

“I want to thank them and wish them all a happy holiday,” he said.

That’s not all. With the funds raised, he said he wants to get himself a place to live.

The GoFundMe was started Nov. 29, the day the Sumner Food Bank and the Sumner Police Department publicly recognized Booth for his actions. Sumner community member Desiree’ Almonte created the page, which has raised more than $14,325 by 419 people as of Dec. 12, with a goal of $17,000.

Almonte told The Herald through Facebook messages that she first met Booth at her father’s neighbor’s house in Sumner and felt compelled to help him.

In an update earlier this week, Almonte wrote that Booth came to visit for “tree decorating and eggnog.”

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Desiree’ Almonte, left, and Kevin Booth stand in front of a Christmas tree at Almonte’s father’s house in Sumner. Almonte started a GoFundMe for Booth after he found $17,000 in cash outside of the Sumner Food Bank and returned it. The GoFundMe has raised more than $14,000. December, 2018 Kevin Booth Courtesy

Booth said he liked that Almonte started the page and that he was surprised by all the donations that flooded in after his story was shared.

He wasn’t the only one.

Booth’s mother, Cathy Johnson, said Booth told her what happened when he first found the money. She told him it was a good choice to turn it in — that’s just the kind of person he is, she said — but didn’t think too much about it after that. Not until months later, when she saw her son on the news.

“I was going through the news posts, and there’s my son’s face. I said, ‘Wow!’ I was really surprised,” she said.

Johnson reached out to The News Tribune in an email on Dec. 7, wanting to thank everyone who donated to Booth, echoing Booth’s hopes that he’ll find a home with the funds.

“I would like to post a public thank you to the Food Bank, Sumner Police and the many people who donated to go fund me,” Johnson wrote. “I’m Kevin’s mom and I want people to know how thankful I am for recognizing Kevin and what he did. For the money people donated to the fund, I would like to see Kevin get a place to live. It would be good to know that he doesn’t have to be out in the weather at night.”

Johnson met with The Herald this week, sharing pictures of Booth from his childhood and his time as a student at Sumner High School, where he graduated in 2004. She shared that Booth was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, and in his late teens, an abscess tumor was found in his brain and had to be removed.

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Kevin Booth’s childhood is captured in photos shared by his mother, Cathy Johnson. Most of the photos feature Kevin with his older brother, Shaun. Cathy Johnson Courtesy

His disability and the aftermath of the surgery made it difficult to keep a steady job. As for housing, Booth kept being turned down after a credit check.

“Kevin will go ahead and spend 40 or 50 dollars for the credit check and get turned down,” Johnson said. “After a while, you give a couple hundred dollars to be told no all the time and you give up.”

Booth, who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), would lose his disability benefits if he grows assets worth more than $2,000, according to the Social Security Administration. Johnson worried the GoFundMe money would cause that — but then she learned about the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.

Passed by Congress in 2014, ABLE savings accounts are “a way to save for eligible expenses, invest for the future and keep the benefits you rely on every day,” according to the Washington State ABLE website.

“For too long, people with disabilities could not save for the future out of fear of losing needed government benefits,” states the website.

Johnson says they’re working on a plan to move forward with the money and wants people to know that “the funds are going to benefit him.”

“I just am really surprised and stunned by how much people have reached out to him and the kind words,” Johnson said.

Currently, Booth is couch surfing with some friends and said he’d gladly accept housing offers.

After he finds a place to stay, Booth said, the next step would be to get his driver’s license and a vehicle.

Allison Needles covers news in Puyallup, Sumner and Bonney Lake for The Puyallup Herald and education news for The News Tribune in Tacoma. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest.


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