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8 Accidental Charitable Donations

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You know how you hold on to some stupid kitchen item for like eight years, then decide that you’ve used it once and donate it to Goodwill? Then the next week, you find yourself in critical need of that garlic press for the first time since the Clinton administration?

Now imagine that garlic press was worth $13,000.

People accidentally give away family heirlooms or other valuables surprisingly often. Here are eight of those stories — some with happy endings, and others where people wish they'd never cleaned out their closets.

1. An 80-year-old Illinois man was getting rid of some clothes and decided a suit was past its prime. After he dropped it and other discarded items off at Goodwill and went home to enjoy his decluttered house, the man realized he had made a $13,000 mistake. Not trusting the banks, he had sewn his entire life savings in the lining of an old suit - the suit he had decided to donate just hours earlier. He immediately returned to the store, but the suit was nowhere to be found. He’s still looking for it, actually. Photo via Goodwill.org.


2. Last summer, a worker at a Goodwill near Chicago was sorting through a bunch of jewelry donations when she found a metal bracelet stamped with “CMS CHARLES D. KING, 25 DEC 68.” Suspecting it might be a POW/MIA bracelet from Vietnam, the worker researched Charles King and discovered he had a sister living in Iowa. When the jewelry was returned to King’s sister, an amazing coincidence was discovered: she also worked at Goodwill.

3. If you’re shopping at a Goodwill in Illinois, be sure to check the pockets of the clothes, because apparently valuables are left at thrift stores in the Land of Lincoln quite often. In 2008, a worker at a store in Glen Carbon discovered $7,500 in cash stashed in a donated shoebox.

By inspecting some other bits of paper left in the box, they were able to locate the donor. His parents had recently died and had thrown the box in the “to donate” pile without inspecting its contents.

4. In 2010, a Goodwill in Maple Grove, Minnesota, found a stack of cash in the pocket of a donated coat. Spokespeople wouldn’t reveal exactly how much was found, but said that finding an amount this large was quite rare. No word on if the accidental donor was ever found.

5. Unintentional gifts happen at the Salvation Army, too. A bride-to-be in San Diego hollowed out a book to use as a hiding place for jewelry she intended to wear at her upcoming wedding, including a family heirloom. She also stashed about $7,000 along with it. Perhaps on a cleaning spree to make room for wedding gifts, the bride cleared out a bunch of books and donated them to a Salvation Army trailer. She called as soon as she realized her mistake, and with the help of a Salvation Army major, managed to locate her missing valuables.

6. In 2005, a family donated most of their recently deceased grandmother’s possessions to the Salvation Army in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The only thing they decided to keep was a diary. When they got around to flipping through the diary several weeks after making the donation, they discovered she had hidden a large amount of cash in plastic Easter eggs, intending to surprise her family with an Easter egg hunt they would never forget. She passed away before Easter and the eggs were donated, presumably with a number of other holiday knickknacks the family didn’t even think twice about. As far as I can tell, the eggs were never returned.

7. Let this be a lesson to those of you who like to clean out your significant others’ closets when they’re not home. One Colorado wife did just that, and when her husband discovered that his wardrobe was a little lighter, he became quite distraught. Apparently his hidey hole was an old wallet in the pocket of a pair of ancient Levi's, and his wife had inadvertently donated a “two-inch thick” stack of bills to the Salvation Army. Luckily, the pair was able to get back to the store and locate their bags before workers had even started sorting through them.

8. Compared to some of these stories, a missing book worth $400 doesn’t seem like much of a crisis. But when it’s a family heirloom with a personalized inscription on the inside cover, the loss really stings. A man accidentally donated the book “The Grim Glory of the 2/19 Battalion AIF” to a local book fair. It contained a story about his father, a field doctor with the battalion during WWII, and a handwritten dedication to his dad from the book’s editor. The book fair’s coordinator discovered the book and knew it must have been accidentally donated. She was able to find the owner and return it nearly a month after it was donated.

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This Just In
7 Ways You Can Help Hurricane Irma Victims
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Want to assist Hurricane Irma victims? Instead of raiding your closets and pantries for clothing, food, and blankets, the Center for International Disaster Information recommends donating cash, rather than material goods, to carefully vetted relief organizations. Or, consider donating your time by either opening your home to evacuees or helping to rebuild ravaged towns and cities. Here are just a few ways you can lend a hand.

1. HELP PUERTO RICO REBUILD HOMES.

Hundreds of Puerto Rico residents lost their homes in the storm, and many have been stranded without power. Local nonprofit ConPRmetidos is raising money to rebuild houses and provide on-the-ground relief and aid to hurricane victims.

2. SUPPORT RELIEF EFFORTS IN BOTH THE CARIBBEAN AND THE U.S.

Convoy of Hope, a faith-based, nonprofit organization based in Springfield, Missouri, is sending food, water, and emergency supplies to Hurricane Irma survivors in both the U.S. and the Caribbean, and continues to support Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Donate $10 to their #HurricaneIrma response by texting "IRMA" to 50555.

3. LIST YOUR HOME ON AIRBNB.

Homeowners in the Florida Panhandle, northern Georgia, and northwest and southeast South Carolina can open their doors to Irma evacuees and relief workers for free by marking them available on Airbnb's Irma page until September 28, 2017.

4. VOLUNTEER WITH HABITAT FOR HUMANITY.

Good with a hammer, and want to help out for the long haul? Sign up on Habitat for Humanity’s Hurricane Recovery Volunteer Registry, or donate to help rebuild homes destroyed by Irma.

5. DONATE TO THE FLORIDA DISASTER FUND.

Irma weakened into a tropical storm as it tore through Florida, but cities are still flooded, and millions are now without power. The Florida Disaster Fund, which is the State of Florida’s official private disaster recovery fund, accepts donations for response and recovery efforts, and also has a list of resources (including open shelters) available online. 

6. HELP ANIMALS BY DONATING TO THE SOUTH FLORIDA WILDLIFE CENTER.

Support injured or orphaned animals by donating to the South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale, which is billed as the nation’s highest-volume wildlife hospital, trauma center, and rehabilitation facility.

7. GIVE TO THE UNITED WAY.

The United Way of Miami-Dade is requesting donations on behalf of the support organization's locations in all hurricane-ravaged areas. Relief funds can be directed to either Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey.

JUST REMEMBER...

Donations often pour in right in the aftermath of a natural disaster, but charities are still going to need your long-term financial support as afflicted communities continue to recover from Irma. Consider giving money over the course of a few weeks or months, instead of just a one-time payment.

And before donating, vet the credentials of nonprofits on websites like Charity Navigator or GuideStar (although they may not list smaller, community-based organizations). In this case, the Federal Trade Commission has a list of tips for giving. They include never sending cash or wiring money, doing some background research on the organization, and even calling them if necessary.

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Lists
10 Ways You Can Help Hurricane Harvey Victims
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Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Want to lend a helping hand to Texans in need, but don't know where to start? Here are just a few ways you can make a difference in the aftermath of the destructive storm.

1. DONATE TO THE TEXAS DIAPER BANK.

The Texas Diaper Bank is requesting money and diaper donations to provide displaced families with emergency diaper kits. (Diapers often aren’t provided by disaster relief agencies.) Visit their donation page here.

2. LIST YOUR HOME ON AIRBNB.

Airbnb has waived service fees for evacuees who check in before September 1, 2017, and the site is also connecting people in need with volunteer hosts. Find a place to stay, or offer your space for free here.

3. LEND YOUR TIME, MONEY, AND EXTRA PET SUPPLIES TO RESCUE ANIMALS.

Austin Pets Alive—which has rescued hundreds of abandoned and shelter pets from flood-stricken areas—currently needs money, dog and cat fosters able to keep animals through adoption, and supplies like cat litter, large plastic or metal bins, and liquid laundry soap. For more information, click here.

Other animal groups in need include the SPCA of Texas, Dallas Animal Services, and the San Antonio Humane Society.

4. DONATE TO A LOCAL FOOD BANK.

The Galveston County Food Bank, the Houston Food Bank, and the Corpus Christi Food Bank all accept online donations.

5. GIVE BLOOD.

Hospitals in Texas are reportedly facing blood shortages. If you’re local, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and Carter BloodCare are seeking blood donations.

6. DONATE TO THE SALVATION ARMY.

The Salvation Army will offer both immediate and long-term disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey victims. Make a single donation here, or arrange to make a recurring monthly donation.

7. BROWSE GOFUNDME FOR CREATIVE WAYS TO DONATE.

Help out families, charities, animals, relief organizations, and other small groups by visiting GoFundMe’s Hurricane Harvey Relief page and donating to a fundraising campaign.

8. HELP OUT DISASTER RESPONSE GROUP PORTLIGHT.

Disaster response organization Portlight provides medical equipment, shelter, and evacuation assistance to people with disabilities. Find out how you can help here.

9. BUY A COLORING BOOK.

Contribute to the Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund for libraries damaged by the storm. Donate here, or purchase a TLA coloring book instead. A set of two costs $10, and all proceeds benefit the relief fund.

10. GIVE MONEY TO THE RED CROSS.

Text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also visit redcross.org, or call 1- 800-RED CROSS.

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