“Honest, hard-working,” is how people who know and work with Ellen Zilkie describe her.
So when Zilkie came across more money than she’s ever seen in one place before, she didn’t hesitate. She knew what to do.
She picked up the cash and went about finding its rightful owner.
It was Friday, May 12, and Zilkie, who keeps city streets clean for Downtown Salmon Arm through the Shuswap Association for Community Living (SACL), was doing her regular route. She was heading down past Scotia Bank with her broom and dustpan when she spotted it. A bunch of $100 bills with an elastic band around them lying on the street.
She picked them up and headed back to the community living offices. She thought there was maybe $1,500 or $2,000 worth of bills.
When she arrived with her find, “I’d never seen so many heads poking out of offices,” she laughed, adding they told her to count it. She did, and was shocked by the number. Four thousand dollars.
“I’d never held $4,000 before.”
Although some people told her she should keep it, and she knew her mom, who’s 87, could use it, she didn’t consider that.
“I’m honest. I was raised with good morals,” she emphasized.
She and a SACL staff member went out to see if they could find the owner.
They decided to start with Scotia Bank, as it was the closest financial institution to the spot the cash was found.
There they learned a man had come in just 10 minutes earlier, asking about the money. He had thought it was in the breast pocket of his shirt.
They left the money with a bank employee, who also counted it and was able to return it to the customer. The man wasn’t told Zilkie’s name and Zilkie wasn’t told his. But he left a card for her addressed to ‘finder’ with a bird on it, thanking her, as well as a small reward, she said.
At Downtown Salmon Arm, manager Jennifer Broadwell praised Zilkie and her work for the business association.
“She is really invested in our little community and is a good Samaritan.”
Zilkie also worked for the Observer for about 16 years with her mother, dropping off bundles of newspapers, picking up extra routes. She said she is currently searching for a place to live, preferably near downtown in the vicinity of 7th or 8th Street SE so she can walk to visit her mother and vice versa. She’s hoping someone knows of a place.
Joanne Reitan is services manager with SACL. Like Broadwell, she also spoke highly of Zilkie.
“Ellen has been involved with SACL since at least 2010. She is such a hard worker, she has always worked three or four jobs and has looked after her mother. She’s just a real stand-up person.”
Reitan said Zilkie started the street cleaning a couple of years ago and has been very dedicated.
“I happened to walk into the office when she was counting the money.
“We were sort of teasing Ellen, saying that’s enough to go on a bus trip. She didn’t consider it. She said somebody is missing that money and they needed it back.”
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