Goodwill officials seek rightful owners of mistaken $14,505 cash donation
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 12:05
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Will the real mystery donor please stand up?
It may take a bit more detective work — and end up in St. Louis County court — before the person who inadvertently “donated” $14,505 to a Goodwill store is reunited with the money.
MERS Goodwill officials announced last Thursday that a stack of cash was found inside a box of Christmas donations that had been donated to the Goodwill store on Baptist Church Road.
Video surveillance showed two men unloading several boxes from a white trailer being pulled by a Ford truck. The vehicle’s license plate wasn’t visible on the surveillance, so Goodwill turned to the public for help and the hunt was on.
As soon as the news hit, the telephone calls began coming in to Goodwill’s headquarters.
“It turns out that right now, 15 people think they donated the money,” MERS Goodwill CEO Lewis Chartock said on Tuesday morning.
Those making claim to the money include a husband and wife whose trailer apparently transported the boxes to Goodwill; and a woman who hired an estate sale company after her parents died. The boxes apparently originated at the parents’ home, but it’s unclear how they ended up on the trailer owned by the husband and wife.
“There is also another lady who calls every day in tears, sure it’s her money,” Chartock said.
Dave Kutchback, Goodwill’s chief of staff, patiently called back each one of the callers who made claim to the money. Some of the tales were easier to sort out than others — some people, for instance, gave the wrong location of the store where the donation had been made.
Chartock said his agency believes that one of those 15 callers making claim to the money is the rightful owner — but that the matter is probably going to be turned over to St. Louis County court to resolve.
“It’s in the hands of our lawyer who will talk to the court and figure out what to do,” Chartock added.
Chartock declined to identify the woman who hired the estate sale company, the lawyer representing her or the husband and wife who say they own the trailer that dropped off the boxes.
It’s unclear what the arrangement was between the estate sale person and the people with the trailer who delivered the boxes to the Goodwill.
Tina Wells, store manager at the Goodwill store on Baptist Church Road, was sorting through boxes in a storage bin in the back of the store last Wednesday. Inside one box were the bills neatly stacked: 266 $50 bills; 12 $100 bills and one $5 bill.
Wells alerted her boss. Officials discovered that a surveillance camera trained on the back lot showed two men pull up at about 3 p.m. Tuesday in a green Ford F150 pickup. The truck is pulling a white trailer. They helped the Goodwill worker unload several boxes from the trailer, then they left.
Chartock said one of the first people to call was a woman who said she has a business with her husband that brings donations to Goodwill after estate sales. She said her husband drove the truck and was one of the men unloading the trailer.
Goodwill also got a call from the man who ran the estate sale who said he “didn’t want the money but that it should go to the daughter of the people who originally had the estate sale, the people who died,” Chartock said.
Chartock said money that winds up inadvertently donated to Goodwill usually boils down to this: “Elderly people who sometimes want to make sure there is cash around (the house) hide it in their houses and they don’t tell anybody that they hid it.
“It’s kinda stashed. And then when they die, nobody knows (about the money). Very often, the money is inadvertently donated to the Goodwill.”