CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — The Salvation Army bell ringer stationed outside a Sam's Club in Clarksville on Thursday night did not know one of the giving people who dropped a donation inside the red kettle left a valuable treasure.
A South African gold coin worth $1,740 lay wrapped in tape in the kettle filled with dollars and coins. The generous contributor who has made anonymous gold coin donations to the Salvation Army for several years did not make his or her presence known, but simply dropped the gold coin discreetly, and continued on.
Jill Crow, past chairwoman of the Salvation Army advisory board, said while counting money Thursday night they found the coin and rejoiced at the surprise.
"This is the fifth year that the 'Angel of Giving' has given us a gold coin," Crow said. " It will go a long way in helping keep our shelter open. We depend on bell ringing money to keep our shelter open. The value of the coin keeps going up each year. We don't know who it is. That's why we call it our 'Angel of Giving.'
"We are so thankful for this person," she said.
This time the coin was wrapped in tape. In past years the anonymous donor has wrapped coins worth $1,500, $1,100 and $750 differently — in a dollar bill, tissue or paper to retain the value and make it stand out to money counters, Crow said.
The kettle and bell ringing tradition which dates back to 1891 is the organization's largest and most important fundraiser each year. Last year's $1,500 African Krugerrand coin donated by the anonymous contributor went toward the $130,000 goal that was met. This year the Salvation Army is hoping to raise $150,000.
The value of gold has gone up over the course of time, increasing right along with the amount of appreciation the Salvation Army has for the mysterious donor.
"We are tickled to death and excited each year we receive this," said Martin Bruner, chairman of the Advisory Board. "It's obvious it is someone who loves the Salvation Army and helping people in need."