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Article updated: 12/18/2012 5:06 PM

'Guardian Angel' drops seven Swiss gold francs in Salvation Army kettle in Libertyville

By Mick Zawislak

Seven Swiss gold francs worth $2,170 were dropped in a Salvation Army kettle in Libertyville, as Lake County donors continue to corner the market for giving valuable coins.

The francs each contain 0.19 ounces of gold and are dated from 1906 to 1935. Wrapped in a handwritten, spiritually-themed note, they were deposited Saturday in a kettle at the Jewel store on Milwaukee Avenue.

Because of the note and its references and the type of coins, the Salvation Army believes the gifts came from the same anonymous "Guardian Angel" who dropped two packages of seven Swiss gold francs valued at $6,930 at the same location last year.

Heavy on theology, the fairly lengthy personal note thanks the faithful "soldier" bell ringers for doing the work of God by taking care of the needy, financially and spiritually. It comes to a direct conclusion: "Bottom line: Give generously and you will be blessed in many ways!"

The Jewel location bell ringer was out sick Monday and didn't find out about the coins until Tuesday, said Capt. William Holman, who heads the Salvation Army Waukegan Corps office.

"I said, 'You need to look at the book for Saturday,'" he said. "She didn't know, obviously."

Giving gold and silver or other valuable coins has been a tradition for more than 25 years and their arrival in the kettles gets attention.

But there is something about Lake County, which has led the Salvation Army's Metropolitan Division, serving Chicago, northern Illinois and northwestern Indiana, in gold coins the past two years. Ten of the 11 gold coins reported in kettles this year have been in Lake County -- the other was a South African Kruggerand at Casey's Foods in Naperville.

Holman said the overall pace of giving has slowed since earlier this month when the first gold and silver donations were logged in Lake County.

"In the last few days, it's really come back to us. This week, I increased the number of hours the bell ringers will be out there," he said. Ringers will be out from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Saturday at 66 red kettle locations in Lake County.

Last year, 31 gold and silver coins worth $14,000 were dropped in kettles in Lake County. So far this season, there have been 12 worth more than $8,000, Holman said.

"Last year was quite different than any other year," he said, of the coin donations.

This year's overall donation goal is $500,000, with $329,000 collected. The campaign in Lake County raised $434,000 raised last year. Across the region, the red kettle campaign is down about 10 percent from a year ago, according to Alyce Chadwick, a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army.

Gifts of stock are down 30 percent due to "continuing economic hardship," she added, and those seeking emergency food requests have quadrupled in some areas.

Other assistance includes youth programs, emergency lodging, disaster relief, spiritual counseling and substance abuse programs.

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