Elderly Man Accidentally Gives Life Savings to Goodwill

By Arielle Milkman

Nov 30, 2011 11:35am

When an 80-year-old man donated a suit to a Goodwill store in Moline, Ill., he accidentally gave away the wrong suit. The suit he gave away had his entire life savings of $13,000 sewn into the lining of the jacket.

The enormity of the mistake was compounded by the fact that he needed the money to help pay for his wife’s stage-four cancer treatments.

Nevertheless, he is refusing donations from well-wishers as far away as Germany who have contacted the Goodwill and news organizations trying to help.

“If you could please ask his daughter to open a charity account or give people a place to donate to him, I know I would love to give him $100 this holiday season,” a California woman wrote in an email to news station WQAD. “I am not wealthy, but I can understand how hard times can be when a loved one [has] cancer and all the world seems to be so black.”

His daughter thanked those who had offered support in a statement released to WQAD.

“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from around the world,” she wrote. “My father’s wishes are to respectfully decline any donations of any kind. He only wanted someone to come forward with the money he gave away in error.”

The man, who did not want to be identified because he was embarrassed about the mistake, realized he had accidentally donated a gray suit that contained $13,000 sewn in its lining last week.

He and his family went to the Goodwill store and searched through the entire coat section for the right one, with no results. Goodwill employees continue to search for the lost suit, said Dana Engelbert, spokesperson for Goodwill of the Heartland.

The man is unsure of the exact date of his donation, so Goodwill is searching all its inventory donated since late October, although Engelbert said someone may have already bought the item in question.

Engelbert said this isn’t the first time a donor has inadvertently given away a significant item. It is not uncommon for donors to accidentally leave money in their clothes or to mistakenly donate their dry cleaning bags to Goodwill.

But, she said, sometimes lost money shows up again. “We’ve had instances where money has been left in wallets or purses, and customers buy those items and they bring the cash back,” Engelbert said.

The family is offering a $1,000 reward for the return of the lost money.

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