It was an average day in September at the Kildonan MCC Thrift Shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Paul Normand was sorting through books to sell.
That is, until an old box containing a black leather-covered Bible and several personal mementos originally owned by a Manitoban named Jack Baird came through the donation bay.
MCC photo/Paul Normand
Normand lifted the Bible out of the box and came across documents from the 1940s, including a marriage certificate, old photos, letters, a family tree, newspaper clippings and a record of Jack Baird’s service in the Air Force during the Second World War. To Normand, it looked as though the box was accidentally donated to the thrift shop.
MCC photo/Rachel Bergen
Normand, who spent much of his professional life researching family trees prior to working at the thrift shop, put the box aside and in November he decided to research Jack Baird.
“I just knew it was probably donated in error. It looked like it was something that shouldn’t be here. That’s when I decided to look into trying to find the family (of the original owner),” he explains.
MCC photo/Paul Normand
Normand was able to find Baird’s military record online and learn that he was killed with half a dozen other men in a training exercise. Eventually, Normand connected with distant family of Baird’s on Facebook, who got in touch with Baird’s niece. Kathryn Munro of Winnipeg came to pick up the mementos before Christmas.
According to Normand, Munro and her family were shocked to discover it had been donated.
“They were upset it (the box) made its way here, but were grateful that I noticed it looked unusual. They were really relieved to get it back,” says Normand on behalf of the family, who didn’t want to be interviewed by MCC.
According to Robin Searle, the chief operating officer of the Kildonan MCC Thrift Shop, this extra effort speaks to the way thrift shop employees and volunteers care about the items donated.
“It proves that as a thrift shop, we maintain these are people’s treasures that are given to us and we’re good stewards of those treasures,” she says.
Normand adds he’s happy his research paid off and that these treasured keepsakes are back in the hands of family members.
MCC Thrift Shops endeavour to process donations quickly and efficiently and cannot guarantee all items donated in error will be found or returned.