QUEENS — A Goodwill worker was sorting through donations at the organization's outlet store in Long Island City last month when she made a startling discovery — $39,000 in cash tucked inside a purse.
Assistant manager Kindell Keyes, who's been working at Goodwill for about a year, said she initially thought someone was pranking her when she found the envelopes of money.
"I started looking around like, who’s setting me up? There’s no way," the 51-year-old Far Rockaway resident said.
Keyes turned the wad of cash over to her manager, who along with other Goodwill staff, eventually tracked down the owners of the lost loot. They were two brothers from California who'd donated some of their 101-year-old grandmother's belongings as they cleaned out her New York home after she passed away and had no idea the cash was there.
On Tuesday, one of those men flew to New York to collect the forgotten funds. But Keyes' good deed didn't go unrewarded, as her company surprised her with a $3,900 bonus — or 10 percent of the cash she found.
"Good behavior is recognized," said Katy Gaul-Stigge, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey, who called Keyes a "hero" for her honesty.
Workers at the Goodwill outlet on Van Dam Street and 48th Avenue, where the cash-filled purse was donated, tracked down the owners through a piece of mail that was also left behind in the bag, they said.
Maria Torres, a retail director with Goodwill, drove to the address listed on one of the envelopes, where she spoke to neighbors who told her that the homeowner had recently died, but gave her contact information for the late woman's grandsons.
"I was shocked," said one of the men, who asked to be identified by only by his first name, Bryan. He said his grandmother grew up during the Great Depression and must have squirreled the cash away.
"It's just so good to know that there's people like Kindell in the world," he added. "It's remarkable."
Keyes said it never crossed her mind to keep the discovered dough.
"The money didn’t belong to me," she said. "I believe in karma. You do good, good things happen to you, so I'm not going to keep something that don't belong to me."