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WICHITA, Kan. — Was it fate or a coincidence?

“It just gave me cold chills. I was in shock,” Mary Alldritt said.

Alldritt, a Wichita native, is still in awe after discovering a piece of family history she didn’t even know was missing.

“We started just cruising around, and the next thing you know it as I came around the corner, I was like, ‘there’s my mom’s handwriting,'” Alldritt explained.

Alldritt was at the Assistance League of Wichita Thrift Shop in August when she happened to spot an army green, somewhat worn canteen in the store’s vintage section.

“I immediately knew it was my brother’s and found out later it was his boy scout canteen,” she said.

Alldritt’s brother, Robin Phillips, died in 2013. She believes one of her siblings donated his 1950’s canteen to the store following his death and their mother’s death in 2020.

“It was just such a surprise, really that confirmation that he is doing good and just to remind me to never stop thinking of him and mom. It’s just neat,” she said.

What are the odds?

From clothing to bedding and even children’s games, hundreds of thousands of items are donated to the Assistance League of Wichita each year, according to the shop’s manager.

“A lot of coming and going. In one day, we probably sell as much as we take in the back door,” said thrift shop manager Susan Hussey.

Hussey said each item gets processed and priced before it is put on the retail floor. She said the volunteer staff rarely sells items like the canteen belonging to Alldritt’s family.

“A lot of times if something has a person’s name on it, we don’t really put it out, but this was a real, vintage canteen. It was pretty unique, so the girls went ahead and put it out,” she explained.

It’s unclear how long the canteen may have been in the store’s procession. However, everyone involved in the find agree; this was a memorable encounter.

“It was just like there was a hand in it that, you know, you can’t explain,” Hussey said.

“We all just kind of thought to ourselves it was heaven-sent,” Alldritt said.

The thrift store gifted Alldritt the canteen. She plans to give it to her late brother’s grandsons as a memento.