Oklahoma Goodwill Employee Finds (and Returns) $42,000 in Donated Sweater

“My first thought was—it’s fake.”

Andrea Lessing is used to finding odd treasures and sometimes even money working at a Goodwill in Norman, Oklahoma. So, she wasn't completely surprised when she came across two sweaters wrapped together—holding what she thought was books—in a box of donations last month.

Looking closer, she discovered that it wasn't books at all.

Andrea Lessing Goodwill Money
Lacey Lett

"There was just stacks of just envelopes and it just contained $100 bills," Lessing told KFOR. "My first thought was—it's fake."

But it was very real. Lessing had just stumbled upon $42,000: the largest cash find in a donation in Oklahoma Goodwill history.

Money Found in Goodwill Donation
Joann Woods

Fortunately, there were documents along with the cash that helped Lessing and her supervisor track down the owner, but that's not always the case.

"Normally we have no way of knowing who the money belongs to," Frank Holland, Vice President of Donated Goods at Goodwill, told KFOR. "Even if we wanted to try to give it back to someone, there was no way to find who that person was."

Lessing told Good Morning America that the decision to return the money to its rightful owner was a no-brainer, though she admitted to feeling a tiny bit of temptation.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm human. Naturally the thought crosses your mind like 'I just found $42,000, I could get this, this, and this,'" she said.

Ultimately, Lessing said that her desire to be a good role model for her six-year-old daughter is what led her to do the right thing.

"I have a daughter, I love her very much and you can't put a price on my daughter," she explained to KFOR. "I know what could be risked stealing that money and I do believe in karma. I do believe that if you do something good, something good will come back to you."

And that's exactly what happened. The owner gave her $1,000 as a token of gratitude.

"I actually was very surprised," she told GMA. "I didn't give it back to expect a reward. I didn't give it back to expect anything. I didn't expect to be on the news. I didn't expect for any of this to reach all the way over to different states and different countries. I just wanted to do the right thing."

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