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Charity bares precious metal

Sun., Sept. 12, 2004

People often donate cans of metal to the Habitat-Spokane Builders Surplus Store. It’s not often, however, that the metal is precious.

On Sept. 2, a woman donated two boxes of building material to the store, 850 E. Trent Ave. Her gift included a lime-green Tang can filled with nails that covered a cloth bag stuffed with 13 pounds of coins, mostly silver.

Jeff Howard, the store manager, said it’s unlikely that the woman intended to give away the coins, which could be worth $1,000 or more.

“Whoever brought it in, as far as we’re concerned, can have it back,” Howard said.

The donation was accepted by Laurie Falk, a retired attorney who volunteers at the store each Thursday morning.

The woman was white and about 5 feet 5 inches tall with brown hair.

“I asked her if she wanted a receipt, and she said no and she just disappeared,” he said.

Normally, cans aren’t examined thoroughly by Habitat volunteers, but Falk noticed the bag under the nails and that it seemed too heavy to be full of only roofing nails.

“Many times we don’t even go through it. We could have easily put a sign on the can that said, ‘Buy the can for $2,’ ” Howard said. “Someone would have gotten a great deal.”

The Surplus Store opened four years ago to raise money for Habitat for Humanity to construct homes for low-income people in Spokane, create a place to buy affordable building supplies and prevent quality material from going to the dump.

The coin stash includes a few dozen troy ounce silver coins. (Troy ounces, each equal to about 1.1 standard ounces, commonly are used to measure precious metals.) Also in the bag were a few rolls of Bicentennial quarters, half-dollars and dollars, $2 bills, a British pound note and a rectangular silver coin commemorating Mother’s Day 1985.

A week after Habitat first announced it had the coins, two leads have gone dry. If the silver remains unclaimed, Habitat probably will cash it in, Howard said. But he’ll wait a couple months for the woman to come forward.

“If we never find the owner, that’s what we would do, the money would go to build houses,” Howard said.


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