(MCT) — As Capt. Antonio Romero and his Salvation Army Aurora Corps volunteers sorted money collected from their trademark red kettles, a heavy gold coin fell from the dollar bill that encircled it.
The volunteer who unwrapped the currency was shocked, but Romero knew exactly what it was – a South African Krugerrand worth about $1,700.
"It's incredible. It's beyond belief even when the economy hasn't been at its best somebody can still find it in their heart to give something that generous," Romero said. "It's mind-blowing to us, and we are extremely thankful. And I'm sure those who ultimately benefit from this are just as thankful."
Romero believes the valuable coin was dropped into a kettle Friday morning at Casey's Foods in Naperville. He recognized it because finding a Krugerrand wrapped in a dollar bill and deposited into a Naperville kettle has become an annual occurrence, and he can't help but think the same donor is responsible.
Money donated in the kettles stay in the communities where it is donated and assists people in need with food, shelter, after-school programs and disaster relief, according to Alyse Chadwick, public relations specialist for the Salvation Army.
"You're helping your friends, your family, your neighbors and the people you see and work with and live with every day," Chadwick said.
The Naperville coin was one of several large donations the group recently received. A double eagle gold coin worth about $1,730 was wrapped in a 1,000 yen bill valued at about $12 and deposited into a kettle at a Jewel store in Grayslake on Friday.
At a Dominck's in Gurnee and a Wal-Mart in Round Lake Beach on Saturday, two Canadian gold coins worth about $170 each were dropped into kettles.
Volunteers also found $1,000 in rolled bills in a kettle at Sam's Club in Gurnee and four $100 bills in a kettle at Dominick's in Lake Bluff.
Salvation Army officials say they have received more than 400 gold coins in their kettles over the years. Volunteers will be manning the kettles until Dec. 24, but the campaign will continue through Jan. 31. In addition to dropping money into a kettle, donors can contribute online at http://www.salarmychicago.org.