By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
During her daily six-hour post at Walgreen’s, Cindy Mendoza makes sure to say hello, goodbye and “Merry Christmas” to everyone — whether they put anything in the Salvation Army kettle or just walk on by.
“I’m a people person,” Mendoza said. “I like interacting with the people.”
But she was left speechless when “the cowboy” emptied his pockets Friday, filling the kettle with silver and gold.
A smattering of gold and silver coins were dropped into Mendoza’s kettle, with a value estimated between $8,000 and $10,000, depending on market prices.
It is the second time within a week bell ringers in Clovis have found gold coins in a Salvation Army kettle.
“This is totally phenomenal and amazing and incredible,” said Maj. Tammy Ray of Clovis’ Salvation Army. “This is beyond our wildest imagination.”
Friday’s donation, plus a donation earlier last week, help an organization that just a few weeks ago was struggling with a $6,000 deficit on fundraising goals.
A pair of Liberty Eagle gold coins, valued around $1,200, were dropped in a kettle at Wal-Mart last Wednesday.
Mendoza said she asked “the cowboy” if he was involved with Wednesday’s donation, and he said he couldn’t elaborate.
Mendoza doesn’t remember too many details, other than “the cowboy” was tall, wore a cowboy hat, a turquoise ring and boots.
Whoever it was, Mendoza said, he was generous.
“I saw him pulling … and pulling out of one pocket,” she said. “He said, ‘Hold on, I’m not done yet,’ and went to his other pocket.”
One of the coins, Mendoza said, didn’t fit in the kettle’s top slot. She held the coin for the remainder of her shift, turning it in with her kettle later that night along with a message from “the cowboy” to “make sure that Tammy Ray knows about this.”
Ray said the coins will be kept in a safety deposit box while the organization figures out how and where to sell them.
But the coins will be liquidated at some point, she said.
“I know we need to have it appraised,” Ray said, “and that’s not going to happen before Christmas. It will be liquidated. We’re not sure how we’re going to do that.”