Oklahoma Goodwill employee finds $42,000 in donated sweater

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – A Goodwill employee had quite a surprise when she found more than $40,000 in cash tucked away in some old donated sweaters.

It’s the largest cash find in Oklahoma Goodwill history – but that was not the biggest surprise for the woman as the integrity she showed after finding it paid off.

A lot of money has been found tucked away in items donated to Goodwill, but they’ve never found anything like this before.

“Just from working here a month and a half, I’ve realized that there are a lot of things that have been donated,” said Andrea Lessing. “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.”

One day, she came across two sweaters wrapped together, holding what she thought was books. On closer inspection, she found it wasn’t. 

“There was just stacks of just envelopes,” Lessing recalled, each one stuffed with $100 bills. “My first thought was – it’s fake.”

It was real – and the total sum was a whopping $42,000.

Along with the cash there were documents with information that helped track down the owner – something also highly unusual.

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

Of course, we’re all only human and the thought of keeping or hiding a find like that might cross our mind, but Andrea rose above the natural instinct.

“I have a daughter, I love her very much and you can’t put a price on my daughter,” she said. “I know what could be risked stealing that money and I do believe in karma. I do believe that if you do something good, something good will come back to you.”

Little did she know – she was minutes away from karma coming back to her.

Photo goes with story
Stacks of hundred dollar bills found in clothing at the Goodwill in Norman. (Credit: Lacey Lett)

The owner of the money wanted to remain anonymous – but they did want to thank her for the integrity she showed that day.

“They asked us if we would give you $1,000 out of that money and give that back to you,” said Holland. “Thank you for what you’re doing and your integrity. You’re really living our values and that’s for you.”

Just like the moment when she found the money, Andrea’s first thought was about her 6-year-old little girl.

“Her birthday is coming up in July so I can actually give her an amazing birthday party,” Lessing said. 

“We all agree on your comments on karma – it comes right back,” Holland said. 

It’s not only the largest cash find in Oklahoma – it ranks among the top finds for Goodwill internationally.

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