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A golden gift

We Care receives gold coins in Red Kettle Drive

Denise Gaska, director of We Care of Grundy County, holds one of the gold coins that was anonymously donated to a Salvation Army red kettle outside the Morris Walmart Monday.
Denise Gaska, director of We Care of Grundy County, holds one of the gold coins that was anonymously donated to a Salvation Army red kettle outside the Morris Walmart Monday.

Call it a Christmas mystery.

In recent years, an anonymous donor has annually slipped gold coins into the Salvation Army's red kettles at locations in Morris.

Leaders of We Care of Grundy County, which coordinates bell-ringing volunteers in Morris, are in the dark about who is behind the gifts, but say there are some similarities year to year.

"They always come at once, and they're always wrapped in a dollar bill," said We Care Director Denise Gaska. " ... They're always in the same kind of plastic wrap."

She also said the coins have historically been donated on Mondays, which is the day that volunteers from the First United Methodist Church of Morris collect donations at the kettles.

After an off year when the location of church volunteers changed and the coins came on a shift manned by Morris Community High School volunteers, Gaska said three half-ounce coins were donated Monday during the Methodist church's shift at Walmart.

Gaska said the donor has managed to remain anonymous over the years, but she'd love to know who's behind the coins.

"They must be the biggest kind-hearted person, that's why I'd like to know who they are," she said.

She added that the coins have gone a long way in helping We Care help others — she estimated the coins will fetch about $2,600 this year.

"It's wonderful, the generosity that this takes to do every year," she said. "Every year I just think it's not going to happen again, and it does. I just don't take it for granted at all."

Gaska said each year the drive brings in around $25,000 to $26,000, 80 percent of which goes to We Care. All of those proceeds support the organization's utility assistance program for area families in need.

This year there are two Morris locations for the kettles — Morris Walmart and Jewel-Osco. Bell-ringers are at Jewel and Walmart from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and there are volunteer shifts Saturday and Sunday at Walmart.

Gaska said she is still lining up volunteers for shifts. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to call Gaska at (815) 942-6389, ext. 4.

Morris resident Linda Klepp was a volunteer at Walmart the night the coins were added to one of the location's two kettles. She was surprised to hear that the storied coins showed up the night she and her husband, Terry, were on duty with fellow Methodist church volunteers.

"We were just talking about it yesterday," she said. "I didn't realize there were three — wow."

While she and her husband have volunteered with the church for four years, she said this was a first for them, and they were excited to hear the news.

"It's never happened on my watch," she said.

The story of the annual gifts has led them and their fellow volunteers to speculate about who the donor could be, and even size up people who stop by on their shift and joke with them.

"We kind of eyed them up and asked them, 'Are you giving the gold coins?'" she said. "It's a mystery."

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