The woman who donated a gold ring to The Salvation Army as a way to honor her former husband on the anniversary of his death has been identified, but says she never intended to receive any attention for her generosity.
On Monday evening the red kettles used by The Salvation Army of Lubbock, Texas, to collect donations were gathered together so the money could be sorted and prepared to be deposited in the bank. Mixed in with the money, however, was a ring attached to a note.
A woman wrote the note to explain that she was donating the ring in honor of her husband, who had passed away seven years ago to the day.
"He was my Angel and I know he continues to watch over me and his family," the note said, in part. "He had a giving heart and would want to help however he could. This was his ring, It's [sic] not much but I hope it helps."
The note also said the husband often used the phrase, "Don't take any wooden nickels."
Justin Eatherly, community relations and development director for The Salvation Army of Lubbock, told The Christian Post that after the ring was discovered, an anonymous donor, who recently lost his wife to cancer, said he would give a monetary donation equal to the ring's value if The Salvation Army returned it to its owner.
Eatherly had the ring appraised – it was worth about $250 – and put out a press release in an attempt to locate the woman who donated it. The message that the woman attached to the ring was included in the press release, except for the sentence about "wooden nickels."
Shelie Bravo Williams was drinking coffee in bed on Thursday morning when a picture of the ring she donated was shown on the news, she told CP. She was "completely shocked" when she saw it, and learned that The Salvation Army wanted to return it to her.
She visited the ministry later that morning and identified herself as the ring's owner by saying the phrase that had been left out of the ministry's press release, "Don't take any wooden nickels." The ring, a gold nugget band that has a black onyx stone on top with a small diamond in the middle, once belonged to Williams's late husband, Victor Bravo, who died of liver cancer on Dec. 23, 2006.
Williams, who has since remarried, says she tries to do something to honor Bravo each year on that date. She had heard that donations to The Salvation Army were low this year, but because of health issues she has not worked in several months and did not have much money to offer the ministry. Instead of cash, she decided to give away Bravo's ring.
"I picked out that ring because it was the ring I gave him our first Christmas together back in '95," she said.
Williams says Bravo was always willing to help others in need, but never sought praise for his generosity. Similarly, she never wanted attention for her donation, but is glad that her generosity may have inspired others to give to The Salvation Army. Eatherly says giving increased after the media began reporting about the ring.
"It is awesome to be able to hold it in my hands again. And I just feel like God really had His hand in all of this and it's come full circle," said Williams. "And for me to have it back just means that there is another time and place that I am supposed to use this to help someone else."
In addition to cash and checks, Eatherly says it isn't uncommon for people to drop notes in the red kettles, though he has never seen a note attached to something as valuable as the ring given by Williams.
"It was moving for all of us," he said.