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A Golden Gift

Kettles receive annual gold coin donation

Denise Gaska, executive director of We Care, sells three gold coins for $1,800 at the Morris Coin Shop Tuesday, after a donor dropped them into a red kettle on Monday.
Denise Gaska, executive director of We Care, sells three gold coins for $1,800 at the Morris Coin Shop Tuesday, after a donor dropped them into a red kettle on Monday.

When We Care employees discovered the first donated gold coins of the red kettle season, Executive Director Denise Gaska’s first instinct was to call the media and spread the good news.

But as she placed the call, she became speechless.

“Just as I picked up the phone, Liz said, ‘Hey, I found another one,’” Gaska said. “Words fail you when someone is that generous.”

Gaska and Liz Etta, We Care of Grundy County intern, were counting Monday’s earnings from the Salvation Army’s red kettles when they came across three half-ounce gold coins.

We Care of Grundy County coordinates the Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign in Grundy County and, in return, 80 percent of the money stays in the county. We Care uses the funds to provide utility and rent assistance.

As of Tuesday, one ounce of gold was worth about $1,198 said Phil Anderson, owner of the Morris Coin Shop. This was a new record high for the worth of gold, he said.

“I was curious for this year with gold being at the level it is and with the economy at the level it’s at,” Anderson said to Gaska while she showed him the coins.

Anderson rounded the worth to $1,200 when he purchased the coins from We Care, so the organization received $1,800 for the coins. The Morris Coin Shop purchases the coins every year from We Care.

This year’s coins were 2002 half-ounce Liberty gold coins, which were worth about $165 each in 2002, Anderson said.

Last year, We Care received three gold coins and two silver coins and received about $1,300 for all five coins.

“Gold was worth so much last year I thought, ‘There is no way we’re going to top this,’” Gaska said. “I kept thinking who would donate gold coins with the worth so high? I fully expected it to be smaller and was preparing myself.”

“But they were bigger than ever and worth more than ever,” she said


We Care has received gold coins wrapped in dollar bills for numerous years now, but the identity of the donor or donors still remains a mystery.

The only consistency is that the donation has always been made on a day the First United Methodist Church volunteers have been ringing the bells.

These circumstances have led Gaska to believe the donor or donors are not only church members, but also actual bell-ringers rather than generous shoppers. But it’s just her theory, she said.

“I love this person, whoever it is,” she said.

For the past several years Grundy County’s residents’ needs for financial, and especially for food, assistance has continued to increase. At the same time the worth of gold has continued to rise, but that hasn’t stopped the donor or donors from giving their gold to We Care.

“They’ve been increasing their donation every year to meet our need,” Gaska said.

Gaska hopes people will follow in the anonymous donor or donors’ footsteps and step up to help We Care meet the growing need. Last year’s red kettle goal was to raise $23,000 in Grundy County, Gaska said. This year it is $25,000.

“The needs are up so much and we want to continue to service the people’s needs, so we rose the goal significantly to make that happen,” she said.

The organization’s need has gone up as much as 45 percent from last year.

The people of Grundy County always seem to come forward to help out their community and Gaska believes they will again to help We Care meet its goal.

The bell-ringers are out in front of the Morris Walmart every day and Jewel-Osco Monday through Thursday. Numerous churches, organizations, businesses and individuals volunteer to ring the bells, unlike in other counties, where they have to pay people.

We Care also still has a gold wedding ring that was donated last year. Gaska held on to it in case someone wanted to purchase it, but if no one does so this season, she will sell it to a gold purchaser. The ring is a men’s size 10.

To donate to We Care of Grundy County, call (815) 942-6389.

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