Goodwill employee finds $42,000 in donated sweaters, helps return money to owner

A Goodwill employee in Oklahoma recently proved that you can never go wrong with honesty.

While Andrea Lessing was sorting through a pile of donations at her Goodwill location in Norman, she thought she was holding books wrapped in two old sweaters. But when she inspected it further, she was surprised to find a huge bundle of cash hidden inside.

Goodwill, Central Oklahoma

In it were stacks of envelopes that contained $100 bills. At first, Andrea thought they were fake.

But all the crisp bills—$42,000 to be exact—were real.

Employees usually find money tucked away in some donated items, but they’ve never seen anything of this sum before.

“Just from working here a month and a half, I’ve realized that there are a lot of things that have been donated,” Andrea said. “You want to make sure there’s good product, there’s no stains, there’s no holes, there’s no tears, there’s no rips.”

With the pandemic still upon us, many families are still struggling financially. But being a big believer in “karma,” Andrea said she never thought of keeping the money for herself.

Stack of cash
Goodwill, Central Oklahoma

So, the good employee reported the lost cash to management. Luckily, Goodwill was able to track down the owner through some documentation included with the donation.

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

As for Andrea, she is just glad to have kept her principles intact. Encountering something like this would have been a difficult “test” of integrity for many, and she certainly “passed” this one with flying colors.

And karma really did Andrea a good one. The owner, who wanted to remain anonymous, asked Goodwill to give her $1,000 for the honesty she exemplified that day.

Goodwill donations
Goodwill, Central Oklahoma

“I just want to say thank you because he was a blessing,” Andrea said. “I thought I blessed him, but he turned right around and blessed me. He restored my faith that there are really good people out there even through this pandemic. We don’t know their situation so it’s better to just be kind.”

Andrea also wanted to be a good example for her six-year-old daughter. With every decision she makes, she thinks about whether she would want her to do the same.

“I want her to know that kindness, integrity, and honesty can get you a lot of places in life,” she said.

Goodwill commended Andrea for demonstrating the values that they hope to impart in the communities they serve.

Jim Priest, JD, the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma, said:

“The actions of Andrea and our Goodwill organization are real life examples of one of our core values: integrity.”

Goodwilll employee receives reward from grateful donor.
Goodwill, Central Oklahoma

He’s also proud of the Goodwill location in Norman for upholding their honesty.

“Andrea showed integrity when she turned in the money and Goodwill showed its integrity as an organization by tracing the donors so we could return the money. Andrea could have kept the money and Goodwill could have kept the money, but integrity is doing the right thing and it’s a core value we strive to live out every day.”

According to a Goodwill representative, this was the largest cash find reported for the organization’s Central Oklahoma locations in its 85-year history. It’s also one of the biggest cash finds of any Goodwill store.

Andrea’s daughter’s birthday is coming up in July, and she plans to throw her an amazing birthday party with a portion of the cash she received.

Here’s a video of Andrea telling her story.

Kudos to you, Andrea! You really deserved that generous reward.

What did you think of this story? Let us know in the comments below!

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1 thought on “Goodwill employee finds $42,000 in donated sweaters, helps return money to owner”

  1. You are the best, Andrea❣May the Lords Angels keep you pathways safe to travel and your heart filled with laughter.

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