South Miami

Secret Santa drops $3,000 diamond ring in Salvation Army kettle

The Salvation Army found a diamond ring, valued at nearly $3,000, tucked inside this folded $20 bill with attached note, in a Red Kettle bucket at the Winn-Dixie supermarket in South Miami.
The Salvation Army found a diamond ring, valued at nearly $3,000, tucked inside this folded $20 bill with attached note, in a Red Kettle bucket at the Winn-Dixie supermarket in South Miami. Salvation Army

Imagine the Salvation Army bell ringer’s surprise when going through the charity’s traditional Red Kettle bucket of collections outside a South Miami Winn-Dixie this week.

Tucked inside a folded $20 bill, alongside a handwritten note: a platinum and diamond ring that was appraised at nearly $3,000.

The message, which included a biblical quotation from Mark, along with a personal inscription in block letters, read: There are so many who need help. Keep doing good!

God bless the Salvation Army.

A friend.

This Secret Santa has been gracing kettle buckets at South Florida Salvation Army locations for six years.

One year it was a gold nugget. Another time it was an emerald and diamond necklace. The Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut three years ago inspired another gift of a diamond ring.

Each time, the gifts seem linked to the same mystery woman who calls the Salvation Army offices in advance to give a head’s up to collectors to check their collection bells for the unusual gift.

The voice seems to belong to an older woman. Tuesday’s message, left on a voice mail, said the item was at a Winn-Dixie but she wasn’t sure of the city. “I think in Coral Gables. Maybe you should check it,” the voice said.

Surprise gifts such as these are not uncommon at Salvation Army collection sites around the country. But the advance phone tips in Miami-Dade are different, said Judith Mori, Salvation Army’s director of development.

“It’s unique in Miami. It’s like a personalized thing,” she said. “The Secret Santa from Miami is special. She’s something else. There’s always messages about compassion and community. We remember the Sandy Hook donation. She said she was really affected by this and the community should come together and that good deeds start within.”

The first gift, the gold nugget six years ago, almost gave away the Secret Santa’s identity, Mori said. The bell ringer saw an older woman, wearing a hat that was hiding her face, drop the item into the kettle. The collector thought, at first, it might be a piece of candy wrapped in the note. She walked away, slowly.

Gone again.

“That’s all we know so far,” Mori said. “It’s so cute. This year she left a voice message and I heard her voice and she is the sweetest thing ever you could imagine.”

There are so many who need help. Keep doing good!

Anonymous note left inside a Salvation Army collection bell with a diamond ring.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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