$17,000 is a lot of money — especially if you’re homeless.
So on Aug. 23, when Sumner resident Kevin Booth saw the paper bag of cash just sitting next to the Sumner Food Bank’s 24/7 access bread box, he obviously thought of all the ways that money could help him.
But instead, the Sumner High School graduate entered the food bank and gave it to the first volunteer he could find.
“She took it, thinking it was a can of food or something, thanked him, and he went on his way,” said Anita Hill, director of the food bank, that it wasn’t until she started weighing the bag did she realize it felt funny. When she finally opened the bag, Hill said, “everyone was quite surprised.”
From there, the food bank immediately called the Sumner Police Department, who counted out the money and determined that if no one came to claim it in 90 days, it would be the food bank’s to use.
“And nobody did,” Hill said, meaning the $17,000 was returned to the food bank on Nov. 26.
The Sumner Food Bank already has plans for how to use the cash.
Long before the paper bag was found, the food bank was already planning to extend their building, giving them more warehouse space for food, clothes, and other items, to expand the food bank’s capacity for helping local residents.
Hill said the food bank helps feed up to 1,000 families a month, as well as 300 or 400 homeless residents and fills more than 300 backpacks with food for low-income students a week. With more storage room, she added, “we will be able to help whoever comes in.”
While some of the money will go toward that extension, which Hill said will start being constructed in early January, the rest of the money is going toward buying food to stock shelves.
A small portion of the money was used to buy Kevin gift cards.
“He likes Fred Meyer,” Hill said, adding that for his honesty, the food bank is going to make sure he’s always taken care of.
On Aug. 29, Sumner Police Chief Brad Moericke presented Kevin, who has reportedly been living in the city for nearly 20 years and has been off-and-on again homeless for almost eight, with a citizen’s citation (“the good kind,” Moericke clarified) for his integrity and selflessness.
“What was particularly unique in this situation is the fact that, given Kevin’s circumstances, he could have used that money personally,” Moericke said in a later interview. “But he recognized it was left there, not for the first person to visit the bread box, but for the food bank… he recognized the money would benefit many people over a period of time.”
Moericke said he doesn’t know where the money came from, and that the police department checked up on any leads they could find, even using security cameras to try and find out who left it there.
Since finding the money and the news has spread, Moericke said many people have sent donations Kevin’s way, saying he deserves some sort of reward for doing the right thing.
“The moral of the story is, do the right thing, and good things will come of it,” he continued. “Even though it’s tempting at first — he said he had to think about it for a minute — but in the end, doing the right thing paid dividends.”
Kevin could not be contacted for this article.
A GoFundMe account has been set up with his permission, and has raised nearly $15,000 in 14 days. According to the GoFundMe page, Kevin receives Supplemental Security Income and cannot work, but the money will be put in an ABLE account, a state-run savings program for those with disabilities, which will not affect Kevin’s SSI income.