Officials find gold coin in kettle for third year

CHAMPAIGN – Maj. John Turner uses one word to describe the unknown donor who put a gold coin in a Salvation Army kettle: "generous."

The carefully wrapped coin deposited in a kettle at Urbana's County Market store is, for the third year in a row, a very expensive one, Turner said.

"It's one ounce, pure gold," he said. "We've had smaller ones in the past, but the last three years, the gold coin has been one ounce, put in a pouch, then wrapped in a dollar, as if to conceal both the gift and the giver, and deposited in the same location. It's a novel way to make a significant donation."

Turner checked the price of gold on the Internet and found out the donation is worth about $637.

The coin, which is identical to coins donated the last two years, is a 1999 Lady Liberty.

"It appears that the same donor has given generously to us again," Turner said. "This is a great way to start off toward our goal of raising $350,000."

That's a countywide goal. Last year, the organization collected $345,000 during its Christmas collection, exceeding a goal of $300,000.

The Red Kettle Campaign started Nov. 17 and will continue through Dec. 23. Donations can be made by mail to P.O. Box 618, Champaign, IL 61924.

The organization operates a Red Shield Center on Market Street where families in need can get social services like food, prescription drugs, help with utilities and household items. There's a men's shelter at the same location with a capacity of 48.

The Salvation Army also operations a Christmas distribution program so families have holiday meals and children have Christmas presents.

"We're very visible at Christmas, but we're doing this 365 days a year," Turner said.

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