A holiday tradition got off to a quick and prosperous start this week when a Salvation Army bell ringer found gifts of gold and silver in a kettle outside a Naperville grocery store.
Regional Director Beverly Peterson said the gold coin and silver pendant, discovered Tuesday night in the kettle at Casey's Foods, 124 West Gartner, are the first to be donated this year in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana region.
"It's very exciting," she said. "It's a great way for us to start the season."
The 1-ounce South African Krugerrand gold coin is valued at roughly $1,278, officials said, and the 1-ounce silver pendant is worth about $17.
Salvation Army Capt. Rich Forney said the money will help ensure the Aurora chapter can continue to provide emergency assistance, a food pantry, and holiday meals this year for Aurora and neighboring communities.
Forney doesn't know what attracts the anonymous donor to Casey's, but similar donations also were found in kettles there in 2004, 2012 and 2013.
"We have gotten them before, at that very location, by an anonymous donor who makes himself or herself very hard to detect," Forney said. "All of our bell ringers try to figure out every year if they're going to be the ones to receive that coin. They're always hopeful that it will be their day that something was dropped in."
Forney said there's an unmatched excitement that comes with every aspect of the donations.
"There's a fun element that kicks off the second the donor drops that in the bucket and it carries over to the bell ringer, who's wondering if it's going to come into his bucket, And their excitement carries over to the people who count the money and get it ready for the bank deposit," Forney said.
"Even at the police station, where we count the money at night, the officers are always asking us if 'it' came in tonight because they love to see it when it does. I'm telling you, the joy spreads from the donor all the way to the bank teller."
Dan Casey, owner of Casey's Foods, also shares in the excitement.
"Someone here in Naperville is very generous and they are supporting a great cause," Casey said. "Hopefully it will start the trend of many more showing up in the kettles around the Chicago area."
To find out how you can donate to the Salvation Army, visit salvationarmyfightforgood.org