CHARITY WORKERS ARE continuing their search through a warehouse of donated clothes in Iowa after an elderly man said he mistakenly donated a suit with $13,000 (€9,660) in a coat pocket to a Goodwill store in Moline, Illinois.
The 80-year-old Illinois man, who has remained anonymous, notified Goodwill last week of the mistake, said Dana Engelbert, vice president of marketing for Goodwill of the Heartland, which covers 16 counties in southeast Iowa and three in western Illinois.
“We’re looking through items all the way through the last week of October and all the November items,” Engelbert told The Associated Press yesterday. The man was not sure when he donated the gray suit, she said.
The man’s wife has cancer and has been using the money to offset medical expenses, she said. ”It’s his life savings and he’s in a difficult situation right now,” Engelbert said.
The search won’t be easy because more than 575,000 items have been donated to Goodwill in the past year, she said. As word of the man’s plight spread, Goodwill has been inundated with calls and emails from people offering to help the man.
“It’s been extremely heart-warming, the number of people reaching out to help,” Engelbert said. “The phone at the Moline store rang almost non-stop with people calling about it and I’ve received emails from as far away as Germany.”
Engelbert said the family has asked not to be identified or contacted by the media but the man’s daughter did provide a statement to WQAD-TV in Moline saying they would not accept any donations.
Reward for return
“Our family would like to thank each and every one of you that have come forward wanting to make a donation to my father for the money he has lost,” the statement read.
“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from around the world. My father’s wishes are to respectfully decline any donations of any kind. He only wanted someone to come forward with the money he gave away by mistake. God bless all of you. Sincerely, Our Family.”
The family is offering a $1,000 reward for the return of the money, Engelbert said.
She said the suit could have already been sold at the Moline store, or it may have been sent with other clothing to a regional Goodwill warehouse in Iowa City, where non-seasonal items are sent for storage.
It’s not usual for people to find money in clothes that are donated to Goodwill, Engelbert said.
“But typically it’s very small amounts of money, $4 or $5 dollars,” she said. “It hasn’t been this large of a sum of money.”
It’s also not unusual for people who find money in clothes they buy at Goodwill to return it to the store, Engelbert said.
“We do whatever we can to return it to the owner whenever possible,” she said.
If someone notifies Goodwill of the loss, workers can usually track it and increase the chances of returning the money. But if it’s not reported and someone returns money, it usually ends up in the organisation’s general operating fund, Engelbert said.
The manager of the Moline store referred questions to Engelbert, who said she is holding out hope the search will result in the money being returned to the man.
“He’s embarrassed by it and we’re trying our best for him,” she said.