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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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Tab for a Cause
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You Could Be Donating to Charity Every Time You Open a New Tab
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Tab for a Cause

Opening up a million browser tabs on your desktop is hard on your computer, but could be good for non-profits. A web app by Gladly, an ad network focused on giving users more power over the ads they see, collects money for charities every time you open a new tab.

Tab for a Cause (which we spotted through Fast Company) is a browser extension that trades a few milliseconds of your attention for money that then goes to nonprofits around the world. When you use the site to navigate to websites, Tab for a Cause earns money from their advertisers (there are two ads on the bottom right-hand corner of the website). The company then funnels a portion of that money to a pre-selected group of nonprofits. With the help of those few extra ads, each tab you open raises between 1/10 and 1/3 of a cent for charity.

The app turns opening new tabs and raising money for good causes into a bit of a game. When you invite friends or run Google searches through Tab for a Cause, you earn "hearts" that help you get to different levels of being "a tabber." Then, you can donate these hearts to the charity of your choice, including Save the Children, Human Rights Watch, and Water.org. You can team up with your friends to compare earnings and see who's doing the most good with their online activity.

Tab for a Cause landing page with widgets for social media sites
Tab for a Cause

However, you do have to navigate to new tabs using the Tab for a Cause screen. Clicking on a link in this article, for instance, won’t count—because you aren’t seeing that Tab for a Cause advertising. Those one or two extra clicks could be worth some real money for a nonprofit, though, so it’s a good deed.

Tab for a Cause works on Chrome and Firefox.

[h/t Fast Company]

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iStock
How a 98-Year-Old Widower Uses Baking to Give Back to His Town
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iStock

Leo Kellner is living proof that you’re never to old to pick up a new hobby, lift the spirits of others, or bounce back after a tragedy. As TODAY reports, the 98-year-old from Hastings, Nebraska, bakes homemade desserts for members of his community—a pastime he adopted after losing his wife of 72 years.

Kellner’s wife passed away from dementia-related complications in 2012. The widower needed an outlet for his grief, so he took to the kitchen. Kellner’s mother had taught him to bake when he was a boy, and these childhood culinary lessons served as inspiration for a new passion project: making sweet treats for the needy.

In the first year following his wife’s death, Kellner made 144 apple pies. He donated the desserts to struggling individuals or families, whom he connected with through funeral homes and local groups. A year later, the home chef added cakes to the mix, according to KHGI Nebraska TV.

Today, Kellner bakes hundreds of desserts a year. His specialties include apple, cherry, and a sugar-free peach-apple-cherry pie; and chocolate, yellow, German chocolate, and angel food cakes. Since everyone’s tastes—and health needs—are different, Kellner makes custom treats for individual recipients. In addition to selecting flavors they’ll like, Kellner will bake fruit-based, sugar-free pies for diabetics, or take allergies into consideration while selecting ingredients.

Kellner bakes for the sick and mourning, but he also gives desserts to friends, acquaintances, hospice workers who cared for his wife, and even strangers—simply because it puts a smile on their faces, The Hastings Tribune reports. Ingredient costs are low, thanks to supermarket discounts and donations, so the senior is never forced to charge for his treats. His only requirement is that recipients swing by his home to pick up their freshly baked goods in person.

Kellner mostly works alone. However, he does have arthritis in his right hand, so he sometimes needs a little help in the kitchen. Occasionally, the senior’s part-time caretaker will help him frost cakes. But most of the time, Kellner is the one doing the helping—whether he’s teaching neighbors’ children to cook, baking a wedding cake for a friend, or whipping up a homemade dessert simply to make someone smile.

“I try to help everybody I can,” Kellner told the Tribune last year. “It makes me feel happy. God left me here for a reason and this is why I think he did. How many other 97-year-olds can do what I’m doing?”

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