4 Times Trash Collectors Saved the Day
By Jill Harness
From junk haulers to park workers to dump truck drivers, we owe a lot to those who keep our homes, parks, and streets clean—especially when they go out of their way to help people who have lost something.
1. Savings Bonds Worth $114,000
What would you do if you discovered $114,000 worth of savings bonds? If you are Leo Guarente, owner of Junk Depot, and the bonds were discovered in an old locked chest removed from a deceased woman’s home, you would immediately return the bonds to the woman’s daughter, Marie Veloso.
The bonds, purchased for $21,000 in 1972, were already worth almost $114,000 when Guarente discovered them. “I could’ve used that $114,000 just like anyone else,” he said, “I haven’t been on vacation in 10 years. But I did not think for one minute that I was going to keep that money.”
Guarente has been trying to get a reality show based on his business, and he gladly used the incident as proof of how interesting his career is, which is why he hired a camera crew to go with him when he returned the money. He also received other perks from being honest; one local man offered to pay Guarente’s cell phone bill for a full year after hearing about the matter.
2. A 55-Year-Old Wedding Ring
When Bridget Pericolo placed her wedding ring in an empty paper cup before doing some chores, she certainly didn’t realize what a commotion it would cause. That’s because while she was doing stuff around the house, her husband of 55 years, Angelo, took out the trash—including the disposable cup sitting on the bathroom sink.
By the time Bridget realized the cup was gone, the trash truck had already come by and picked up their garbage. Fortunately, the couple realized the mistake before the dump truck had finished making its rounds for the day, so the supervisor was able to get in touch with the drivers to ensure the cargo was dumped separately so Angelo could search through the refuse for his wife’s ring. On the downside, by the end of the day, the truck picked up a total of ten tons of garbage.
Amazingly, it only took Angelo and a few garbage men 45 minutes to find the missing ring amongst the piles of trash. The sanitation workers said that the fact that the Pericolos tied their trash bags up greatly helped speed up the search. Even so, Bridget believed the discovery was a miracle.
3. Savings Bonds Worth $22,000
Try to keep track of your savings bonds and make sure your heirs know where they are too. After all, Guarente isn’t the only worker who has discovered savings bonds in piles of trash.
Mike Rogers was emptying out old bins of scrap metal at Blue Grass Recycling in 1971 when he stumbled upon two dozen US Savings Bonds purchased by Martha Dobbins. While no one knows how the bonds ended up in the barrel, it’s believed the person who bought Martha’s house after she died
in 1922 dropped them off at the recycling center along with the metal scraps that eventually found their way to Rogers.
Rather than celebrate the fact that he just discovered $22,000 worth of savings bonds, Rogers immediately set out to find the rightful heir to the discovery. Eventually, he tracked down Dobbins’ son Robert Roberts, who was thrilled and shocked by the call. “I was totally surprised,” he said. “I had taken care of my mother for several years before she died and she never mentioned anything about any bonds."
Even more surprising than the fact that Rogers went about finding the son of the person who bought the bonds is that when Roberts tried to compensate the recycling company employee, his offer was refused.
4. Another Lost Wedding Band
Danielle Hatherly Carroll was tossing out trash from one of her public art classes in Battery Park when her ring slipped off her finger. Danielle realized the ring was gone later in the day, but by the time she and her husband returned to the park, the trash bins had already been emptied by the park workers.
Desperate to get the ring back, but without any ideas on what to do, Danielle left a note on one of the park’s garbage trucks that was parked nearby. Fortunately, Parks worker Gary Gaddist got the note and immediately took up the challenge and dug through the trash until he found the missing ring. “I would hope someone would do the same for me or anyone else,” Gaddist said.
In return for the Parks Department worker’s help, Danielle offered him a space in one of her art courses. “I didn’t even know they had things like painting schools,” Gaddist said. “It’s kind of exciting.”
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It’s easy to say what we would do if we discovered a small fortune that someone threw away, but until you have your hands on the savings bonds, heirlooms, or antiques, it’s easy to speculate. What do you think you would do if you found things like this in the trash?