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Goodwill Employee Stunned When She Finds $42K Cash in Pile of Donated Sweaters

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When you work at Goodwill, you see a lot of interesting things get donated. Some of them are ready for a new life in a new home, and some of them … don’t make the cut.

Andrea Lessing hasn’t been with the Goodwill in Norman, Oklahoma, very long, but she’s already developed an eye for gauging the value of donated items.

“Just from working here for about a month and a half, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of weird things that have been donated,” Lessing told KFOR-TV. “You want to make sure we’re selling good product, you know there’s no stains, there’s no holes, there’s no tears, there’s no rips.”

But in early March, she came across not just something incredibly valuable, but something that someone had to be heartbroken over.

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“Our new store associate Andrea was in that predicament two weeks ago when she stumbled upon a donation with $42,000 in cash wrapped inside of a sweater!” the Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma shared on Facebook.

“She and other staff let their supervisor know, and turned it in.”

“There was just stacks of just envelopes and it just contained $100 bills,” she explained.

The money was wrapped up in the sweater, possibly someone’s life savings carefully tucked away that accidentally made it into a donation pile. When she first handled the sweater, she thought there were books inside it, but instead, it was so much money that Lessing didn’t even think it was real.

“My first thought was — it’s fake,” she said.

But it wasn’t. It ended up being one of the biggest stashes that Goodwill had ever found.

Lessing has a young daughter, and while she knew what $42,000 could mean to them, it meant more to her to get the money back into the hands of the person who’d clearly misplaced it.

“I have a daughter, I love her very much and you can’t put a price on my daughter,” Lessing said. “And I know what could be risked stealing that money and I do believe in karma. I believe that if you do something good, something good will come hap — you know, come back to you.”

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Generally, donations are given without any sort of identifying information, and the chances of finding who had given the sweaters up would have been slim — but along with the envelopes were papers that helped them find the owner, and while the person did not want to be identified, they were incredibly grateful for Lessing’s honesty.

“Normally we have no way to know who the money belongs to,” Goodwill’s vice president of Donated Goods, Frank Holland, explained. “Even if we wanted to try to give it back to someone, there was no way to find who that person was.

“They asked us if we would give you $1,000 that came out of that money and give that back to you,” Holland continued, addressing Lessing. “Thank you for what you’re doing and your integrity. You’re really… you’re living our values. Thank you. And that’s for you.”

The windfall is certainly timely, as Lessing’s daughter’s birthday is coming up, and she has already started making plans.

“And her birthday is coming up in July so now I can actually give her an amazing birthday party,” the mom said.

“I never expected anything like this to happen to me of all people,” she added. “To me it was just another normal day at work. I was in the back sorting. I never expected to come across $42,000. I made the right decision, and I did the right thing.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking