Sherry Whitesides is a public school teacher, so she’s not rolling in dough.
She and her family live comfortably and “blessed,” but they’re not rich.
Until Monday, she hadn’t even seen the redesigned, more colorful $100 bills released last year – “I don’t have much access to $100 bills,” she said.
But, on her way to her son’s afternoon recreational baseball game in Clover, a couple hundred dollars flew in front of her windshield, landing on the ground in front of her. It totaled more than $11,000 cash, police said. But, instead of keeping it , Whitesides and her son, Alan, turned the bag of bucks in to the police, who later found the owner and returned his bounty.
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So was Whitesides tempted to keep any of the cash?
“No, I was not,” she said. “I’m rich in the Lord. He gives me all that I need. I didn’t even think for a minute about keeping it. I knew if it were mine, I would want somebody to return it.”
Monday evening, Whitesides, a fourth-grade teacher at Cotton Belt Elementary in York, and her son made their way down Bethel Street in Clover, planning to watch her other son, 10-year-old Luke, pitch for the first time in his recreational baseball team. In front of them was a beige or dark champagne sport utility vehicle.
Within minutes, Whitesides said she saw “a black something” blow off the top of the car and land on the ground in front of her.
The black bag’s contents scattered, she said, sending pieces of green, pink and blue paper into the road. She stopped her car and she and her son got out, planning to help the man pick up his belongings. They looked down and saw $100 bills on the road.
“I didn’t think it was real because it was pink and blue,” she said. “I didn’t realize the colors (of the bills) had changed.”
When her son Alan picked up a Wells Fargo bank bag, the two realized the money was real. As they continued collecting the fallen bills, they “realized how much it was,” she said.
Whitesides looked down the road, expecting the man in the SUV to realize what happened and turn back. He never did.
She found a piece of paper in the road that she thought was trash. She soon changed her mind.
“The Lord told me to pick it up and I opened it up and it was a receipt from Wells Fargo,” she said. Inside the bank bag they found a driver’s license, two credit cards, business cards and the title for a truck.
“I figured he had been doing ... business, either buying or selling something.”
She drove to a Wells Fargo branch on Bethel Street, but the bank was closed.
So she drove to the police station and handed the bag to officers.
Whitesides said she and Alan then went to watch baseball.
Police tracked the money’s owner, a 60-year-old man who lives in Clover, a police report states. The man went to the police station and collected his belongings.
“I can honestly say that I did not toy with the idea of keeping the money for myself,” Whitesides said. “I’m strong in my faith, but I know there are others” who would do the same.
“I don’t think what I did was anything extraordinary,” she said.
Her humility has made an impression on local law enforcement.
“We deal with so much negative (things) and so much bad, day in and day out, that when we come across persons like that lady who turned in the money, that reinstills that confidence in us that not everybody is bad,” said Clover Police Capt. David Dover. “We know that. That’s put in us from the academy, from day one to basic training; not everybody you deal with is bad.”
Dover said it’s easy for officers to become “cynical and jaded over time in their career” when they deal with tragic situations daily.
“The honest citizen in this report is another testament to the good that exists in our society today,” he said. “There are examples that play out in our community day in and day out.”
By Wednesday, Whitesides had recounted the story to her students and co-workers. Finding the money was “exciting,” she said
“I would not have been able to sleep at night if I kept that money,” she said, adding that she wanted to be a “godly example” to her son.
“The money was not ours. I didn’t do anything to earn it; I didn’t deserve it.”