GERMANTOWN, Md. (WUSA) - By now, you know the familiar ring, and the bright red kettle. It's the time of year for Salvation Army bell-ringers to raise cash. But, apparently, one donated coin proved to be way more valuable than most, all thanks to a not-so-secret Santa.
It was Thursday evening, and Major Curt Sayre of the Montgomery County Salvation Army was back at headquarters, counting the donations from his kettle, along with several other bell-ringers. That's when he found something he'd never seen donated before in his 22 years there: a gold coin with a note.'"We saw that note that said exchange it for a $1000 check, the whole atmosphere of the room changed, we were all grinning from ear to ear, it was just such a blessing," he said.
Sayre followed the note's instructions, and it brought him to 26-year-old Matt Lerner's business, Frederick Coin Exchange. There, he exchanged the coin for the check. He says words can't express how much Lerner's generosity means. In a little more than a week, he'll see that money go directly into the hands of those who need it. He said, "The most heartwarming thing about the job is when the parents come and pick up the toys - and I'm going to start to cy - and they're just overcome."
Lerner says he dropped in the coin and note because he wants to give back. "I'm to the age, I'm 26, where my family really doesn't exchange gifts any more, so the excitement of the holiday season is to go and try to sneak the gold coins in without anyone noticing."
This not-so-secret-Santa got the idea from when he was growing up, hearing tales of valuable coins being tossed in kettles. Lerner's business has had a good year, he says so it's time to pay it forward.
Sayre got the first $1000 coin dropped in his kettle in front of the Giant Food store in Germantown, but Lerner says there's nine more. Their total value is $15,0000.
Sayre says he's heard of this happening in other states, and other counties, but he's never seen it happen here. "I can't even describe in words how wonderful that was to receive that,"Sayre said.