Seller Story: Salvation Army, Canton, MA

“Two years ago, an anonymous widow dropped her wedding rings into a Salvation Army donation kettle outside of Boston’s North Station. The diamond ring and gold wedding band were accompanied with an appraisal for $1,800 and a note, which expressed her wishes for the rings to help children in need during the holidays, in memory of her late husband.

This act of generosity sparked a trend of ongoing jewelry donations across the region, most of them accompanied with similar notes of dedication and wishes of hope for the less fortunate. In a matter of weeks, we received 15 different jewelry donations to Massachusetts Red Kettles, raising more than $30,000.

When we got the initial ring set in 2014, we were incredibly blessed with terrific public reaction–the rings sold for $21,000. But the buyer–another widow–bought them with the stipulation that they be returned to the original donor. I had no idea in the world how we would track this person down, so we put the story out there in the press hoping she would come forward. And she did, to the bell ringer at North Station, with tears in her eyes. The bell ringer, who knew her personally, understood immediately that this really was the woman we were looking for.

We arranged the exchange a few days before Christmas, and I was in the room. These two women had never met each other before, but there was an immediate bond between them that I suspect happens when a great loss is experienced. It was powerful; their enormous generosity and the spirit of Christmas. It brought us to chills.” – Drew Forster

Seller Story: Salvation Army, Canton, MA
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Seller Story: Salvation Army, Canton, MA

Why did the gift of the rings elicit such a powerful response from the public, versus a large monetary donation?

When people think of the Red Kettle, they think of throwing in spare change or maybe a couple of dollars. The idea that someone would anonymously donate something so valuable and so precious to them, that makes the gift so incredibly personal. The sentimental value, the significant financial value, the note that specified she wished the money to go to the children in memory of her husband, and that it was Christmastime–I think it was a combination of these.

Do any of the stories or pieces donated since then stand out to you?

The following year, a man walked into the Newburyport Salvation Army retail location two days before Christmas. The staff on duty was Major Hughes, and Hughes said the man took off his wristwatch saying, “It feels wrong to wear this when there are so many people in need.” He handed the 18 karat gold Rolex to Hughes and walked out. We couldn’t even write a thank-you note to that incredible man.

What’s the best thing to come of this jewelry trend, besides the flurry of regional donations?

During the holidays, the Red Kettle campaign can seem to fade into the woodwork. The attention this story has received has shined a spotlight on the Red Kettle campaign and more people are thinking differently and pausing when they see the kettles now. Obviously the important thing is that this allows us able to help more people in these communities.

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