Golden good deed

An anonymous donor put this $485 gold coin and note inside a Salvation Army red kettle, located at the retail entrance of Walmart in Caledonia Township, Saturday.

SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — Two days after The Argus-Press ran a news story about recent apparent thefts of donations from the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, an anonymous donor dropped a golden gift in a kettle.

A quarter-ounce 1993 American Eagle Gold coin worth about $485 was discovered by Salvation Army volunteers last Saturday night when volunteers counted kettle donations.

“I’m just amazed and blessed by the generosity of the community,” Lt. Justin Steckbauer said this morning. “It’s exciting, and it’s a great rebuttal to the incidents of the stolen kettles.”

The gold coin was found in the kettle posted at the retail entrance door of the Walmart in Caledonia Township. Included was a note reading “Honor and chivalry is more precious than gold.”

“While we were counting kettles, we found a dollar bill that was taped together and it was heavy,” Steckbauer said in an email. “One of our volunteers removed the tape, and inside was a … (g)old coin.”

The generous donation was a welcome surprise, given that a few weeks ago two of the counter kettles set up inside local businesses, along with the $200 to $300 in bills and coins they contained, turned up missing.

In addition, someone evidently removed the sand bag anchoring the kettle at the entrance of VG’s grocery store in Owosso Township, causing the kettle and stand to tip over. VG’s replaced the bag with a package of firewood.

Steckbauer did not report the incidents to police, hoping the counter kettles (from Big Boy restaurant in Caledonia Township and Rollin’ Smokes in Owosso) and sand bag would turn up. But three weeks later, the items haven’t surfaced.

After the thefts, Steckbauer said it was discouraging to see money and items stolen from a charity that serves the hungry, the needy and the homeless.

It’s unclear why there was a spate of incidents this year. Lt. Eric Cherry of the Owosso Public Safety Department recently said a computer search showed no reported larcenies connected with the Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign in the past 20 years.

More than 100 bell-ringers have been taking shifts at 11 outdoor kettle locations across Shiawassee County for this year’s drive, which is running through Dec. 24, and about 100 counter kettles placed inside businesses.

The Owosso Salvation Army’s goal for the drive, its big fundraiser of the year, is $55,000. So far, the total for collections is $24,183, 43 percent of the target amount.

The Salvation Army relies on the Red Kettle Campaign to fund its programs, including a free lunch program, special church services, back-to-school and coat giveaways for students from local families in need, a food pantry and much more.

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