Secret Cash in Thrift Store Donation Returned to Owners

Someone had something up their sleeve: $6,000

By Larry Evans, Sun Correspondent

From the Englewood Sun, Saturday, March 28, 2015

What would you do?

A couple comes into the thrift store, drops off a pile of clothes that belonged to a recently deceased relative, and then leaves the store.

You work in the thrift store and one of your tasks is to sort through anything donated. You start going through the clothing the couple just dropped off.

One sleeve of a maroon-and-cream-colored athletic jacket seems unusually stiff. You reach down into the sleeve and pull out several envelopes wrapped in cardboard. Inside the envelopes is a considerable amount of cash.

Would you keep the money and not tell anybody what you found?

That question never occurred to Ed Laesser and Kathy Walker when that real-life-cash-in-a-jacket-sleeve scenario unfolded at the Suncoast Humane Society’s thrift store in the Rialto Shopping Center on Business 41 in Venice.

Laesser and Walker found the money last September and returned it that same day.

“The couple had already left the store when we found the money,” said Laesser, the store’s assistant manager. “Thank goodness we had gotten their name, address, and telephone number, which we almost always do.”

Laesser said the couple lived elsewhere in the country, “but they were still in this area when we called, and they came right back to the store” when told money was found in the donated clothing.

“We had quickly sealed the money back up,” Kathy Walker said. “We saw a package of 20s, a package of 50s and a package of 100-dollar bills. But we didn’t count it before we handed it to them.”

The couple, with the package in hand, left the store through the back door. Ten minutes later, they returned through the front door and told Laesser and Walker they had counted the money and it totaled $6,000.”

“I just couldn’t believe it. It was amazing,” said Walker, who has volunteered at the store for five years. “You find a 20-dollar-bill in a pants pocket every now and then, but that’s about it.”

The couple gave Laesser and Walker $100 and told them to enjoy a nice dinner.

Instead, they put the $100 in the cash register.

“One hundred dollars will buy a lot of Alpo and kitty litter,” Laesser said.

Walker and Laesser said everyone else who works in the Suncoast Humane Society’s thrift stores would have handled the situation the same way they did.

The Venice Gondolier Sun wanted to ask for comments from the couple who dropped off the athletic jacket and took home $6,000.

However, the Suncoast Humane Society has a policy against providing the names of people who donate, said Claire Berten, the organization’s Director of Thrift Store and Outreach Services.

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