NEW YORK — Three New York students dished out 20 bucks for a dirty, smelly couch at the Salvation Army. Little did they know they would find something hidden inside that would create a moral dilemma none of them ever expected to be faced with.
According to The Little Rebellion, Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti and Lara Russo were sitting on their couch for the first time when Werkhoven discovered a plastic envelope under the couch’s arm. Inside — a wad of twenties that totaled $700. But that’s not all.
The trio started a thorough investigation and eventually uncovered $40,000 in cash. On one of the envelopes was a woman’s name. The students debated on whether to contact her.
“We had a lot of moral discussions about the money,” Russo said in an interview with The Little Rebellion. “We all agreed that we had to bring the money back to whoever it belonged to. It’s their money; we didn’t earn it. However, there were a lot of gray areas we had to consider.”
The students could have use that money. Werkhoven wanted to buy his mom a new car. And all agreed they could use the money to help pay off some of their student loans. But in the end it really wasn’t their money. Was it?
Werkhoven’s mother looked in the phonebook and found a woman’s name that was written on the envelope. Werkhoven gave the woman a call and told her he had recently purchased a couch from the Salvation Army.
The woman immediately replied. “Oh, I left a lot of money in that couch,” she said.
Werkhoven told her he and his roommates would return the money — but he admitted he was taken back by the woman’s shortness on the phone.
On the way to deliver the money, Werkhoven and his roommates debated — what if they didn’t like her after meeting her? What if she was a really bad person?
After rolling past three “beware of dog” signs and several mounted cameras, they approached the door to a rustic home in a rough neighborhood.
“I think the part of this whole experience that cleared away my prior thoughts and worries was when I saw the woman’s daughter and granddaughter greet us at the door,” Werkhoven said. “I could just tell right away that these were nice people.”
When they turned the money over, Werkhoven said the woman told them she felt like her husband was in the room with them. The woman said he was the one who had given her the money. Every week for 30 years he’d give her money that she’d hide in the couch. After he passed away she continued to work as a florist, still storing money in the couch. Eventually she needed an operation and afterward required months of rehabilitation. During that time her daughter sold the couch. It eventually found its way to the Salvation Army.
“We almost didn’t pick that couch,” Russo said. “It’s pretty ugly and smells, but it was the only couch that fit the right dimensions for our living room.”
The woman gave the students $1,000 for returning the cash.