A Diamond in a Haystack

Who does the right thing anymore? That was the question racing through Sandra Williams’ mind.

Having just remodeled her home, the San Mateo resident realized that heirloom jewelry – including a 1.75-carat diamond engagement ring, Tiffany rings and bracelets, a strand of vintage pearls and more — were missing from her bedroom. Her heart sank. Could she have been a victim of theft?

Filled with despair, Sandra called the building contractors to ask for the home addresses of the work crew, thinking that she might have to visit local pawn shops to track down the stolen items. She notified her insurance company to file a claim and was about to file a police report. Then it hit her: she had been setting aside items to donate to Goodwill at the same time her house was under construction.

Sandra called Jasimine McCowan, in our Donations department, who filled out a lost donations report but counseled Sandra not to get her hopes up. The items would have been taken to the 60,000 square-foot SFGoodwill Burlingame warehouse, which processes more than 25,000 items a day – some of the over 20 million pounds of goods that we keep out of local landfills each year. A 1.75-carat diamond ring lost in a warehouse bigger than a football field and stacked with donated goods…that would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Goodwill Employee Bonnie Patton and Goodwill Donor Sandra Williams

Goodwill Employee Bonnie Patton and Goodwill Donor Sandra Williams

For two days (and nights) straight, Sandra prayed that somehow, somewhere, her ring would be found. She asked her family and friends to pray too. When the phone rang at her workplace on day three and Sandra heard that the jewelry she’d described had been found – along with a few items she’d forgotten to list – she screamed and cried.

Goodwill team member Bonnie Patton, who had taken a temporary job in the warehouse following a period of unemployment, had screamed too when she spotted amid some donated clothing the unmistakable Tiffany blue pouch and red ring boxes. She’d read the mission donations report and had been on the lookout. She immediately reported the found valuables to her supervisor, Tom Wozniak.

Goodwill Employee Bonnie Patton and SF Goodwill CEO Maureen Sedonaen

Goodwill Employee Bonnie Patton and SF Goodwill CEO Maureen Sedonaen

“You can never comprehend my gratitude when my items were returned to me,” wrote Williams after being reunited with her lost heirlooms, which she estimates to be worth thousands. “There really is goodwill at Goodwill.”

At SF Goodwill, Integrity is one of our core values. That integrity enables us to capture the value of everything donated to us – value that we can turn into job training and placement programs that help local people in need. In lieu of a monetary reward, Ms. Williams has made a contribution to our “See the good and grow it” fundraising campaign, which will help more than 500 local people get jobs through SFGoodwill this year.

Life took a turn for the better for Bonnie Patton as well. As soon as a full-time position opened up at the Burlingame warehouse, she was hired and now has benefits to support the three generations of family members living in her Millbrae home.

Who does the right thing anymore? We’re happy to introduce you to Bonnie Patton and the 1,000 other local team members of SFGoodwill who do the right thing every day to help the people who need it most.

  • Anon

    What a great story, and terrific example of people living by their values!