Goodwill Employee Returns $42,000 Found in Donated Sweaters, Rewarded for her Honesty

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The old adage, “honesty is the best policy,” held true in a touching story at a Goodwill store. (Image: Pexels / CC0 1.0)

What would you do if you found tens of thousands of dollars in cold, hard cash hidden in two sweaters donated to a Goodwill store you work for? Nobody would know if you kept quiet. After all, you are living paycheck to paycheck. Times are tough, and your six-year-old daughter has a birthday coming up.

Your financial troubles would be over, right? Stacks of $100 bills tucked neatly inside the sweaters look so tempting. The money would allow you and your daughter to live a happy life. Maybe you could make a down payment on a small home, rent a better place, buy a nicer car, and even keep some savings. Oh, the possibilities!

While working at the Norman-based thrift store, young mother-of-one Andrea Lessing discovered the largest money stash Goodwill of Central Oklahoma had ever seen. It was a shocking find in the history of all Goodwill stores. 

These ideas may have crossed Andrea’s mind when she discovered the money on the clock at her Goodwill job. Lessing had only worked at the company for six weeks. This job gave the single mother some financial independence to support her daughter, but not much.

The honesty and the goodness in Andrea’s heart won the battle. She couldn’t bear to think that somebody would be disadvantaged if the money was not returned to its rightful owner. She reported the incredible stash to her supervisor straight away. They found the stack of bills, hidden in a number of envelopes, totaled a whopping $42,000.

Lessing discovered the cash while performing her normal responsibilities, inspecting donated goods that arrive in the store. “You want to make sure there’s a good product, there’s no stains, there’s no holes, there’s no tears, there’s no rips,’’ she said in a later interview for Oklahoma CBS affiliate KFOR. 

Lessing noticed something unusual in the sweaters she was inspecting. At first, she thought the clothing was wrapped around some books, but to her surprise, she found stacks of envelopes filled with $100 bills. At first, she thought that they must be counterfeit or a movie prop, but upon closer examination, it was obvious that the stash was genuine greenbacks. 

Resisting temptation under trying circumstances shows great strength of character and is rewarded sooner or later. This time it was sooner.
Resisting temptation under trying circumstances shows great strength of character and is rewarded sooner or later. This time it was sooner. (Image: Pictures of Money via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Usually, donations to Goodwill remain anonymous. But this time, while examining the sweaters and the cash, they found a name that indicated the owner. 

“Normally we have no way of knowing who the money belongs to,” said Frank Holland, Goodwill’s Vice President of Donated Goods. ”Even if we wanted to try to give it back to someone, there was no way to find out who that person was.’’ 

But luck was on the owner’s side. The stash was accompanied by documents that revealed the original owner and donor of the sweaters. Lessing and the Goodwill management team wasted no time in tracking him down.

The owner was grateful and overjoyed upon learning that his money had been recovered. The person wished to remain anonymous but wanted to do something to repay Lessing for her honesty and kindness. The grateful owner acknowledged the young mother for her integrity and gifted her $1,000 as a token of his gratitude.

Lessing was delighted that she not only brought the owner of the lost money the happiness of having it returned but was also blessed herself in return. Now she had a thousand dollars, which she could spend for her daughter’s birthday and more. Everybody won.

She said in a later interview at Fox News, “I thought I blessed him, but he turned right around and blessed me.”

Lessing said the situation has restored her faith that there are really good people out there, even through the pandemic, “We don’t know their situation, so it’s better to be kind,’’ she said.

Goodwill shared a statement from Lessing on receiving the reward money, “I never expected anything like this to happen to me, of all people…To me it was just another normal day at work.’’

“I made the right decision and I did the right thing,’’ she said. 

While the world seems to be teetering on the edge of madness during this period characterized by COVID-19, the goodness in people’s hearts, no matter what their situation, shines through in everyday life. Andrea Lessing is one such person. She maintained her integrity and honesty in dealing with a very tempting situation.

Respect for truth and honesty still abounds and will always triumph, especially in times when people are faced with uncertainty. Trying times are not only measured when faced with extreme hardships and physical pains. It is also measured when faced with a dilemma or a temptation. In such a test of character, man’s goodness of heart shines brilliantly when people like Andrea Lessing choose an upright path. 

Honesty is always the best policy. Heaven looks favorably upon those who choose to do what is right. We can be sure that Andrea’s good deed will be rewarded with good fortune as she walks towards a brighter future for herself and her daughter.