PINECREST (CBSMiami) – A sparkly surprise showed up in one of the Salvation Army’s red collection kettles Wednesday.
A diamond ring with an accompanying note was dropped inside the kettle at the Publix on US 1 and SW 134 St. in Pinecrest, according to Salvation Army Major Linda Payton.
“For the 4th year in a row, we had an anonymous call from a lady saying there was something special in one of our kettles. She told us approximately where it was,” Payton told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana. “I took an empty kettle, went out and swapped them out, brought that one in. Sure enough, we had a surprise in there. A lovely ring.”
Payton immediately took the ring to a jeweler, who told her is was worth roughly $3,500.
The Secret Santa also left a note with the ring, which read “Please continue your good work caring for the needy in God’s name.”
Lee Sternberg was manning the kettle when the ring was secretly slipped inside.
“I don’t need it, but Salvation Army does,” Sternberg said.
Sternberg said the Salvation Army changed his life, giving him a job when no one else would.
He said that would not be possible without the kindness of strangers, in this case, a woman who wants to keep her identity a mystery.
“I just want to say on my behalf, it’s just incredible,” Sternberg explained. “I feel like crying.”
“It’s not just that she gives, it’s the way she gives. She does not want the credit,” Payton said.
Payton believes the donor has donor has done this before.
Over the last four years, she said her secretary has taken phone calls from a mysterious woman who tells them to check certain kettles.
Last year, they discovered ten $100 bills divided between several kettles.
In 2011, a diamond and sapphire ring valued at $2,000 was found in a kettle.
Before that, a golden nugget turned up in a kettle. It was worth $3,000.
In each case, a note was included with the donations.
Payton said the handwriting in each appears to be from the same person.
Each note is different, but the messages share a similar sentiment.
“Different words, but the same message to help those in worse or more need than I am,” Payton said.
The Salvation Army is celebrating its 100th year in Miami-Dade County.
The red kettle campaign will continue until Christmas Eve.