It was just another typical business day at the New To You Thrift Shop in Welland, Ontario, but then an anonymous donation changed everything.
Mennonite Central Committee is proud to share this story of generosity and honesty.
Shared by Al Marr, treasurer of the New To You MCC Thrift Shop in Welland, Ont.
The New to You thrift shop is known for its warm, caring atmosphere where customers can expect to receive a good deal on gently used items, or just a sympathetic ear when life has thrown them a curve ball. In fact, after 40 years at the same modest location at 53 Southworth St., its principal sponsors, the Niagara-area Brethren in Christ churches, still consider the shop to be more of a community outreach ministry than a money-making venture.
This week started out as business-as-usual at New to You. In a pattern repeated each and every day, donors drop off their surplus “stuff” and our staff, mainly volunteers, sort through it before placing it for sale on the shop floor. Suddenly, with a gasp, there was a significant turn of events that would result in several lives being touched in an unforgettable way.
It began when our assistant manager, Tish Caldwell, processed a recent donation which included a number of boxes of outdated computer software. Do you remember floppy discs? Clearly, the software was unsaleable, but as a good environmental steward, she emptied the contents in order to recycle the cardboard boxes. She was surprised to find one of them stuffed with cash - $10’s, $20’s, $50’s, and $100’s! With her heart racing, she immediately took the box to Margaret Manwaring, her manager, where a double-count confirmed contents of a whopping $4,970!
Obviously, the donor was unaware of the box’s contents, and the only honorable and ethical course of action would be to return it. But who was this mysterious lady and how could we track her down? No one recognized her and no paperwork changes hands when donations are made. As minds raced, Tish scoured through the rest of the lady’s donations looking for a clue. All she could find was a 4 year old bulletin from the Welland Brethren in Christ church. At this point, we remembered our recently-installed security cameras (believe it or not, thieves also target charities). Finally, we had a tangible lead to work with - a grainy image of the unsuspecting donor.
This is where events took a heartwarming turn and the mystery was solved in less than 24 hours. Since we only had a few poor-quality pictures and a local church bulletin, we emailed the Welland BIC church secretary, Marilyn Dye, with the hope she might recognize the donor. We received a quick response from the office and heard that Marilyn would not be in for a few days. Her husband, Frank, had recently passed away after a lengthy illness, and she was taking some time off. However, this setback was short-lived. Minutes later, we received an email from the church confirming the lady in the pictures was none other than Marilyn herself!
We immediately contacted Marilyn at home to share the good news and she was speechless. Apparently, the boxes of software were her husband’s and having no use for them, she immediately thought of donating them to the New to You Thrift Shop where she had previously volunteered. She certainly never considered checking their contents and has no idea why he stashed the money. He must have scrimped and saved for many years to build up this nest egg. They certainly were not rich by any means.
Within a few hours, Marilyn stopped at the shop to pick up the money. There was not a dry eye in the place when we learned that her husband had no life insurance, and the money was a god-send. She graciously offered a donation to the staff, which they equally graciously declined.
We’ll never know if was divine intervention, or just a series of coincidences, but the outcome of this heartwarming experience was perfect!”
As news of this story spread we contacted Marilyn to get her consent with “going public” and she fully supports it. Furthermore, while a thorough search of her home revealed no more “nest eggs”, she also insisted on making a significant donation to the thrift shop. Clearly, good deeds beget more good deeds!
The New to You Thrift Shop is a registered charity. Like its sister shop in Port Colborne, Port Thrift, 100% of its profits are used to support local and international aid projects.