Value Village employee finds senior's forgotten $85,000 in donated bag

VANCOUVER — Value Village employees often find sums of long-forgotten money tucked into donated jackets or purses.

But store manager Jeffrey Stonehouse has never found a sum as big as $85,000.

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“I have the exact amount here — $85,549,” he said on Thursday. “That is certainly the largest sum we’ve ever found.”

Stonehouse has worked with Value Village for 15 years, managing the Hastings Street store and a processing depot on Venables Street.

On Monday, he and a co-worker were going through recently donated items when his co-worker opened a yellow plastic bag to reveal what appeared to be bank deposit books and stacks of envelopes.

“She ripped open an envelope and leaned over to show it to me,” said Stonehouse, who said the envelope contained what seemed like a wad of money. The pair opened more envelopes and found more money. And even more money.

“We were … a little confused about what we were looking at. The first thought that goes through your mind is — ‘Is this money legal? Is it counterfeit?’ And then — ‘Is it from an ethical source?’ ”

Stonehouse said the pair immediately reported and catalogued the money as store protocol requires. The pair also went through the rest of the bag and found bank receipts that showed the name of a possible owner.

In total, there was $85,549 in Canadian bills, the most recent of which was printed in 1988, said Stonehouse. Other documents found inside the bag seemed to indicate the owner may not have seen the money in about a decade or so, he said.

Sgt. Steve Addison said Vancouver police received a call from Stonehouse on the afternoon of Jan. 18, asking for help returning the money. Officers were dispatched to collect the money and the bank receipts, and have since been able to locate and confirm the identity of the owner.

Addison said it appeared the owner is a woman who had moved into a long-term care home almost a year ago, but that the money was unknowingly donated by well-meaning family members who had recently cleared out the woman’s storage unit.

“We didn’t solve a crime but we helped facilitate a happy ending to the story,” said Addison on Thursday. “Not everything that police are called to turns out to be a crime. We deal, as police officers, with a myriad of calls as we know, and we’re just happy to be able to be involved in this.”

Addison said the money is at the VPD’s property office and that arrangements are being made for the family to collect the cash. It’s unclear how long the money had been in the woman’s storage unit before being donated.

Stonehouse said Value Village often gets calls about items that were mistakenly donated: wedding rings, wedding dresses, other sentimental items. Employees have generally had great success at helping owners track down or retrieve their donated items from the vast array of donated goods that are processed, sorted and put out for sale.

But nothing compares with the $85,000 discovery Stonehouse and his co-worker made this week.

“It was a little distracting that day … It felt good when you take that step to give something back to somebody,” he said. “I don’t know if they were missing it, but I’m sure they were pretty glad when they got it.”

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