Kevin Booth had stopped at the food bank to get something to eat. Instead, he found a bag of cash.
As the Puyallup Herald reports, Booth has been living in Sumner, Washington for 19 years and has been homeless for about seven. Over the last five years, he has become a regular visitor at the Sumner Food Bank, often eating from the bread box outside.
On the morning of August 23, Booth went to the food bank. That’s when he found a brown bag stuffed with cash by the bread box.
Booth told the Herald that he pulled a $20 bill out of the bag and immediately faced a dilemma:
“Of course, I sniffed it to see if it was real. Then I was like, do I take off or do I stay?”
He could have left with a bag full of money, but instead, Booth chose to stay. When Russell Carver, a volunteer, arrived at 7:30 a.m. to open the food bank, Booth gave him the bag of cash. Carver told KING:
“He said somebody left this donation for the food bank, and we were just shocked. We just couldn’t believe how much money was in there.”
When the money was later counted, they discovered there was $17,000 in cash in the bag. The food bank called the police to report the find.
Wondering who might have left the money behind, police looked at security footage. They quickly located video of Booth finding the money, but how it got there remains a mystery.
Police held the money for 90 days. When it went unclaimed, it was returned to the food bank. Now, the food bank plans to use the windfall to expand their operation.
Booth’s generosity and honesty impressed the food bank staff and police. He told the Herald he “just about fainted,” when he learned how much was there, adding, “I’ve never touched that much money and I don’t think I ever will again.”
Still, he has no regrets about giving the money to the food bank instead of keeping it for himself — though it was a hard choice to make. Food bank director Anita Miller told KING:
“[Booth] said, ‘I could have used this, but I knew that it was a big decision for me.'”
Booth repeated something similar to Deputy Police Chief Jeff Engle, who told KING:
“He said the community could use it more than I could. Spread it out to help a lot more people.”
So why didn’t Booth keep the cash? Miller told KCPQ that Booth would have considered it stealing to take something that didn’t belong to him.
Booth told the Herald that he’s happy to know that the food bank will be able to put the money to good use:
“There are a lot of people who would have taken it. I’m just not that person.”
In recognition of Booth’s honesty, Sumner police presented him with a citizen’s citation. Miller also gave him some of the money in the form of gift cards as a thank you. She explained to the Herald:
“I believe a hand-up is what we should be doing with our homeless. All of us who are trying to help should think about that.”
A GoFundMe campaign has also been set up for Booth (with his permission).
Food bank staff say they were overwhelmed by Booth’s gesture, and others have asked how many people would do the same thing. Miller told KCPQ that Booth’s heartwarming actions were a perfect start to the Christmas season:
“It makes you feel good to be able to help him. He helped us in a roundabout way. It’s a wonderful feeling. Trust me, it opened up all of our eyes.”