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Shaffer: Travelers discover wad of cash in Cary

George and Carileen Bollinger, the Florida couple who discovered a large wad of bills on the sidewalk in Cary and are seeking its owner.
George and Carileen Bollinger, the Florida couple who discovered a large wad of bills on the sidewalk in Cary and are seeking its owner. Amanda Dowdy

Passing through Cary, George and Carileen Bollinger stumbled on a case of holiday misfortune – a yuletide heartbreaker they’re hoping to cure.

Two Fridays ago, they rode the Amtrak from their home in Florida to their granddaughter in Charlotte. And on a pit stop in Cary, they took a stroll and discovered dollars from nowhere – a wad of bills under their feet.

The bills were folded, spread out in a pile on the sidewalk in front of them. For all they knew, more of it had blown away and scattered under a shrub somewhere.

But the Bollingers, both retired, didn’t see this windfall as their lucky day. They saw it as somebody else’s lowest. And if that unhappy, empty-wallet soul calls them with the right description, they’ll give the cash back.

“My heart sank when I saw that money,” George Bollinger said. “That’s somebody’s rent money. That’s somebody’s gift money.”

Read on for a bit before taking down the phone number, which will be included at the end of this story.

The Bollingers’ act of unselfishness, also known as “doing the right thing,” isn’t unheard of. It can even be rewarding. In 2005, three children in Colorado found a duffel bag filled with $98,000, which they turned over to police rather spend on a lifetime’s supply of bubble gum. Six months later, the money unclaimed, the three got to keep the loot as a giant boost to their college fund.

The Bollingers initially made the same move.

They took the money to Cary police, where, they said, they were told the money would be held for 180 days without any advertisement. If somebody knew the serial numbers on the bills, that person could claim it. Or, police told the Bollingers, they could take the money away themselves.

So they did, hoping to track down its rightful pocket.

They won’t say how much they found, wanting to hang onto information only the money-loser would know. It’s not $98,000, or even $1,000, but it’s enough to pay the electric bill and put a new skateboard under the tree – no trivial sum in the weeks before Christmas.

They won’t say exactly where in Cary they found it, beyond walking distance from the Amtrak station, which depending on the time of the layover and the fitness level of the Bollingers could plausibly be a block or a mile.

Carileen Bollinger said the right caller will know details not shared here.

“I can weasel it out of them,” she said. “They’re going to be able to identify it.”

But if after 30 days, they haven’t heard from the owner, they’ll turn the money over to the Salvation Army. But she’s hoping to reunite cash and wallet before then.

“If I lost that much money Christmas week,” she said, “that would really make my Christmas, you know?”

So here it is: 904-739-8030.

Be honest, now. Respect this gesture of Christmas honesty, so bright to behold.