This article was originally published on our website: yourdailyharbour.com
Books are real treasures for those who value knowledge and wisdom above everything else. Even in the era when everything is going digital, reading books still remains one of the most favourite pastimes of people all over the world.
And while digital books are light and handy to carry around, nothing can quite compare to the feeling of a printed book with real paper and hardcover. Books may be filled with a variety of captivating worlds, but it is not the only thing you can find there!
Cathy McAllister, a volunteer who helps with organizing the books that were donated to the Volunteer Non-Profit Service Association, stumbled upon an antique-looking book one day. Yet it wasn’t the book’s age that impressed her the most – inside she found something completely unexpected that changed her life forever.
Once a Book Worm, Always a Book Worm
Cathy McAllister is a former teacher from Phoenix, Arizona. She’s been a huge book fan all her life, reading everything from detectives, adventures, and romantic novels to psychological, philosophical, and historical books.
There wasn’t a time in her life when she wasn’t reading! It all started when she was just a little girl and continued throughout her grown-up life when the passion for knowledge inspired her to become a teacher – someone, who used books all the time.
Having retired, Cathy McAllister didn’t lose her passion for reading. On the contrary, she decided to become even closer to books than ever before. That’s when she became a volunteer for the VNSA – a non-profit organization that receives millions of book donations every year.
Retirement is Not the End
It was more than just a simple pastime for Cathy as books were one of her biggest passions in life. Not only did she enjoy working with them, but she also felt it was very important that the donated books received a new life and a chance to serve someone.
Despite all the advantages of modern digital books, most people would still prefer reading an actual book made from paper. But not all people could afford to buy new hard-cover books as they can be quite pricey, that’s why Cathy McAllister found great joy in what she was doing.
Not only was she helping all those great books find new owners, but she was also helping people to gain more knowledge and wisdom they couldn’t afford otherwise. And thanks to the VNSA something absolutely incredible happened to her!
The Great VNSA Sale
Once a year the Volunteer Non-Profit Service Association organizes a great fair that draws thousands of people from all over the country. Everyone gets to dig through hundreds upon hundreds of books to add to their home or school collections.
Whether you need some new books for a kindergarten, some thrilling adventures for your personal library, or books for studies to help school kids learn new things – the VNSA fair is the go-to place for all that, and more!
The preparation for the big sale required weeks of work as volunteers had to go through thousands of books, picking the ones that were in decent condition, and arranging all the books according to various topics. Cathy McAllister was one of those volunteers, but unlike the rest of them, she had a keen eye for detail that allowed her to spot something unusual.
An Awesome Cause
Naturally, the great VNSA sale isn’t only about finding new homes for millions of books, it’s also about helping other people in need.
In 2018, the great VNSA book sale attracted more than 15,000 people, who bought around half a million books. All in all, they raised $340,000 dollars that were later used for charity!
Cathy McAllister has been a volunteer for the organization for 7 years and she couldn’t be happier with her work. The VNSA supports numerous local charities that provide free education for all the people who want to learn how to read and write and continue their studies. For a former teacher, it was the greatest cause one could think of.
Preparing for the Sale
For such a big fair, the VNSA has hundreds of volunteers working non-stop for a few weeks in a row. They have to sift through around one million books, swiftly deciding whether the book is in good enough condition to be sold or it’s a no-go.
It is the largest charity used-book sale in the South West, so naturally, the VNSA had lots of people involved in organizing the fair, as well as volunteers looking through the books.
It wasn’t Cathy McAllister’s first run as she was a seasoned volunteer and knew how to assess books in a fast manner, noticing all the details that could be problematic for future buyers. It was okay to pick an older book, but it still needed to be in a readable shape. As the preparations were unfolding, one antique-looking book caught Cathy’s eye.
In Charge of Everything
Cathy McAllister was not only working as a volunteer for the VNSA book sale, she was also coordinating other volunteers, organizing the whole preparation process and making sure everything went well.
Cathy had to make sure that everyone was working efficiently and all the books were sorted according to their genres. One mistake and the book could end up in a pile that was irrelevant to its contents where no one would buy it.
There was so much work to do that Cathy spent all her time in the warehouse where all the book sorting and various other preparations were made. She put all her effort into organizing the event as best as she could!
A Day Like Many Others
Cathy McAllister was working alongside other volunteers sorting, pricing, and boxing the books for the grand sale that was about to happen. She was fully familiar with the whole process, and yet, she had to be attentive not to miss anything.
She didn’t want to pass a book that was in a bad condition and she didn’t want to miss a book that was still in a readable shape and could make someone happy.
Cathy McAllister was examining each book with extra care – it was both for her sake and the sake of future readers. She took pride in what she did and everyone loved her for her diligence. That’s why it doesn’t really come as a surprise that it was Cathy who noticed one peculiar book.
Cathy was looking through a huge pile of books that has just appeared on her table. If she came across a book they already had she could decide whether they needed another copy or not.
It all depended on the book’s state and whether or not it was selling good. Yes, Cathy had to understand the intricacies of the book market as well! Otherwise, they could end up with a whole pile of books that would never sell.
Suddenly, her hand came across a peculiar book – “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. She already had a few copies of the book, so there was no need to keep yet another one. Still, something seemed a bit off about this one.
An Unexpected Find
Apart from the copy on her hands, Cathy already had three other books exactly like it, but in better condition. Most of the time it all came to whether the book was still readable or not.
The book’s cover looked faded and it was a bit torn in some places, but apart from that, it seemed quite readable. Still, Cathy was ready to put it away into the repurposing pile that included all the books that weren’t going to the VNSA sale.
She was about to put it away for good, but the book seemed somehow weird, it felt a bit lighter than you would expect from a book with so many pages. The balance also seemed a bit off. Cathy decided to inspect the book further to see what was wrong with it.
A Book with a Secret
Cathy opened up the book and started looking through its pages. It was in better shape than she imagined – the pages were all yellow but she could make out the text.
Suddenly, her hand stopped and Cathy gasped in surprise. She held her breath, staring into the opening in the very centre of the book. Someone cut out a part of the book to create a hiding place!
The hollowed part of the book wasn’t empty – it contained stacks of money! Cathy stared at her find in disbelief, trying to process what she was looking at. Was it Monopoly money that some kid has hidden inside a book while playing a game?
A Hidden Treasure
Cathy took out the money and her eyes widened. She was absolutely speechless, unable to find the words to describe what was happening. Those were not Monopoly money at all!
The conversation all around her stopped as she was staring blankly at the insides of the book. “Hey, look what I found!” she said, finally, as the world stopped spinning all around her.
She let out the air and took another deep breath. Other volunteers were looking at her with curiosity, not understanding what was going on. Why did she go silent suddenly and interrupted everyone? Cathy raised her hand a little bit so everyone could see her find, and suddenly the room erupted with chatter. It was real money, and a huge sum by the look of it!
The Surprise of a Lifetime
Cathy McAllister was ready to toss the old-looking book away, but something stopped her and urged to take a look inside. Cathy didn’t know whether it was her own intuition or the work of Providence, but she was happy she didn’t get rid of the book.
Cathy laid out the money on the table, not believing her eyes. She was still processing the whole thing. Why would anyone hide their money like this?
Cathy stared at four stacks of money, carefully tied together with a band the same way banks do when someone withdraws a large amount of money. Each stack contained one-hundred-dollar bills, so she could already tell it was quite a big sum. Soon, Cathy would face a dilemma she has never dealt with before.
A Huge Amount of Money
Cathy McAllister inspected stacks of money once more – there were all brand-new bills and each of them contained ten one-hundred-dollar bills, which meant she had $4,000 on her hands. Cathy still couldn’t wrap her head around this unexpected find.
Why would someone hide such a large amount of money inside a book and, what’s more important, why did they give it away? Or maybe it was some kind of accident?
All these questions were swirling inside Cathy’s mind and no one could give her answers. Unless… Cathy glanced at the worn-out edition of “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” once again. Could it be that this book held the answers to at least some of her questions?
What to Do Next
When everyone calmed down a bit, one of the volunteers finally asked the question that was on Cathy’s mind out loud.
“So… What will you do with the money?” one of the co-workers asked Cathy in a light-hearted manner. They all understood there wasn’t really a choice to be made here, but still, someone had to ask.
A thought to leave the money all to herself didn’t cross Cathy McAllister’s mind even once. She wasn’t brought up to do things like that! But she did think how wonderful it would be to donate all this money to support the VNSA and their charitable work. She thought about it for a minute or so, but there could only be one answer to that question.
The Rightful Owner
“We have to return this money to the rightful owner,” Cathy said calmly. There was no other way around it. Cathy imagined if it was her book with the money stashed inside – wouldn’t she want it to be returned?
She imagined how the person must feel about losing such a huge amount of money. They could be devastated right now! And if that person was long gone, then the money belonged to his family and loved ones.
Either way, Cathy wasn’t leaving the money all to herself, even if she wanted to use it for a good cause. She would never take something that didn’t belong to her! Now all she had to do was find the owner of the book, a task that might turn out impossible unless Providence helps her one more time.
Further Inspection of the Book
The only thing Cathy McAllister could do at this point was to carefully inspect the book one more time. She was so startled by the unexpected find that she didn’t look any further. Maybe there’s a hint somewhere?
She was turning the remaining pages one by one, hoping that there would be some inscription that would help her identify the owner, but then she stumbled upon something much better!
At the end of the book, there was an actual letter written by the book’s owner to his wife and kids, who were supposed to receive the money. Cathy couldn’t believe her luck! Chances to find an actual letter with the name of the book’s owner were close to zero, yet there she was, holding that letter in her hands.
The Explanation Letter
There wasn’t much information in the letter – it was more like an instruction for the family about the money. The head of the family left a note instructing his wife to distribute the money among all the family members.
Although Cathy felt curious about the whole thing, she really didn’t need any more details than she already got. The letter contained the owner’s full name with quite a peculiar surname, so Cathy was hoping that the power of social media will help her locate him.
Cathy was hoping her search would be fruitful, after all, she’s already gone so far! Finding the money was like a miracle in itself, and finding the owner’s name was like something straight out of a movie. Now all she had to do was find some information about the family on the Internet.
The Power of Social Media
After a few hours of browsing and going through Facebook profiles, Cathy hit the jackpot. She finally stumbled upon the family that might be the one that owned the book!
Cathy was afraid that the owner of the book might have passed away, hence his belongings were given away, including the book that ended up in her hands. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case!
The owner of the book was alive and well as she could deduct from his Facebook page – it was an older guy with a big family. Cathy carefully composed a letter, describing the whole situation with the book and how she found the money inside, then sent it, and braced herself, waiting for the reply. Nothing prepared her for what she read in the text the owner of the money sent her!
The Weird and Funny Truth
It turns out the owner of the money totally forgot they ever existed! He remembered the book quite well, but the whole episode with the money seemed like something straight out of a movie. He didn’t remember doing anything like it.
The book’s owner has grown quite old and it wasn’t surprising for him to experience some memory loss. He must have hidden the money a long time ago, so now he has no recollection of ever doing it.
Still, Cathy was adamant about returning the money to him and his family, so she requested a meeting. The man couldn’t go himself as he was too old to move around, so his family took it from there. Cathy was about to meet the family members all that money was meant for!
The book owner’s son in law stepped in to meet with Cathy McAllister. He arranged for the time and place and appeared with his wife. Both were quite surprised by the whole situation, but they didn’t find it too weird.
The man explained that his father-in-law was quite a unique man with extravagant habits, that’s why the story about money hidden inside a book didn’t seem too far-fetched to them. It was something the old man would definitely do, he admitted.
Still, none of the family members have ever heard about the hidden money and that they should look for a secret stash in one of the books. They were bewildered by the whole thing and found it rather amusing!
The family received the money with much gratitude, thanking Cathy McAllister from the bottom of their hearts. In an interview for 12news, Cathy confessed that the book owner’s family seemed quite peculiar.
During the meeting his daughter and her husband were joking around lightly – she was planning to ask her father whether there were more books like that with hidden treasures.
Cathy laughed a bit herself – if she was in their shoes, she’d probably come home and check each and every book there was! They might be hiding some unexpected things and treasures from years before.
The Happy Ending
Cathy even proposed that they would visit the VNSA sale before the opening to check if more of their books got there. Her kindness and big heart are truly inspiring!
The book’s owner and his family were probably feeling the same way because they donated a large sum of money to the charity. Because without Cathy and her keen eye for detail that money would have been lost forever.
Although everyone praised Cathy McAllister for what she did, the woman just smiled shyly, saying that anyone in her place would have done the same because what goes around, comes around. Still, we believe that these small acts of kindness make the world a better place.
Cathy McAllister’s kind deed didn’t go unnoticed by the media and soon she started giving interviews about the whole situation. Although she didn’t think it was such a big deal – the whole world thought different!
Thanks to Cathy, the VNSA got some extra advertisement and more people arrived at the annual sale to look through the variety of used books there.
That year, the Volunteer Non-Profit Service Association received a whopping $400,000 from book sales! All the money were used for various charity campaigns supported by the VNSA. Just like that, Cathy’s one good deed created even more goodness in the world around her!