1924 $20 Saint Gauden gold coin found in red kettle December 9, 2011.

When Majors Jim and Pat Irvine set about the task of counting the donations received in the red kettles here in Lafayette along with a small band of faithful volunteers this past Saturday,  it was a familiar scene to them.  One they’ve seen many times over their past 18 years as officers.  But along with the familiar routine this past Saturday came a new experience.  For the first time in their careers overseeing Christmas operations for Salvation Army units across the midwestern states, the couple was surprised to find a $20 gold coin mixed in with the dollar bills and loose change in one of the kettles.

“We’ve read and heard about gold coins being received in Salvation Army kettles at Christmas time, but we’ve never received a gold coin in any of the kettles where we’ve served,” said Major Jim Irvine.  “We’ve seen our share of lost buttons, foreign coins, and even the occasional ring (usually a woman’s ring), but never gold,” added Major Pat.  “What a marvelous gift and wonderful way to help others in need, especially at this time of year,” she said.

The coin, a 1924 $20 Saint Gauden piece, is valued at approximately $1,660.  “The volunteer who made the initial discovery let out a yelp and then turned bright red as she smiled from ear to ear,” said Major Jim.  “Dropping a gold coin in a Salvation Army kettle during the Christmas season may sound a bit of a cliché, but it sure is exciting to experience.  Part of the thrill is seeing the gold,” said Irvine, “but the bigger excitement comes from knowing how many people will be helped from this gift.”

The Salvation Army hopes to collect $160,000 through the red kettles this Christmas Season.  As of Friday, the Lafayette unit had received $74,604.63 through its red kettle donations, or just under 47% of if its goal.  “We are privileged to serve in such a caring and generous community,” said Irvine.  “We’ve got a long ways to go, and I am confident the citizens of Tippecanoe County will help us make our goal as we continue to serve those in need.”