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Generosity of Salmon Arm residents and beyond overwhelms GoFundMe recipient

Community members and strangers go all out to show appreciation for honesty
Ellen Zilkie from Salmon Arm and Bonnie Quann from Penticton meet in person for the first time on June 14, 2023 at the Kelowna International Airport. Quann set up a GoFundMe account for Zilkie after Zilkie found $4,000 on the street in Salmon Arm and did not hesitate to find the person who lost the cash so she could return it. (Photo contributed)

Two strangers with much admiration for each other met for the first time recently at the Kelowna International Airport.

Ellen Zilkie from Salmon Arm and Bonnie Quann from Penticton rendezvoused at the airport on June 14 because it’s a midway point between their homes. Also, Zilkie was about to fly to Victoria.

The roots of their relationship were formed on May 12 when Zilkie found a roll of $100 bills secured with an elastic band while she was doing her street cleaning job in Salmon Arm. Finding the money and everything else that’s unfolded since has shown her how generous people inside and outside the community are.

Through the Shuswap Association for Community Living (SACL), Zilkie keeps the town tidy for Downtown Salmon Arm – one of a few jobs she has. On May 12, she took the money back to the SACL offices where staff suggested she count it. She discovered she had picked up $4,000 off the street, an amount she had never held before. Without hesitation, she told staff she needed to get the money back to its owner.

A staff member went with her and they decided to go to the bank closest to where she found the money.

When they went in, they learned the owner of the money had been there about 10 minutes earlier. The money had fallen out of his front shirt pocket. So Zilkie left the cash at the bank and personnel there thanked her. She received a card from the man expressing his gratitude, with a small reward inside.

The Observer published an article about Zilkie’s experience, which Quann read online. Quann saw that several commenters on Facebook were suggesting someone should start a GoFundMe for her. Zilkie lives on a low income and helps her elderly mother.

When Quann looked the next morning, she noticed no one had. Very impressed with Zilkie, she decided she would. She named it “Example of Honesty (Ellen Zilkie).”

As of June 15, it had reached $3,820 of its $4,000 goal and by June 16, it had jumped up to $4,000.

Zilkie said she is going to spend some money going to Victoria for a Jehovah’s Witness assembly there, will help her mom when needed and would like to invest a little with the bank for future needs.

She said she’s not used to all the attention and joked that come next spring, she might be hiding out under the red Liberty Tax suit, another one of her jobs.

Zilkie emphasized she is very grateful for the GoFundMe and Quann’s kindness, but she has also witnessed more generosity.

“I walked into Askew’s and somebody treated me for a meal. Somebody handed me $20 right in the bank… One of my sister’s kindergarten teachers handed me some money rolled up. She said, ‘I want you to have this because you work hard,’” recounted Zilkie.

She said Scotiabank gave her a $150 gift card to Walmart. The owner of Redd Threads Clothing gave her $100.

Zilkie said she appreciates everyone’s generosity and kindness, especially Quann’s. Quann didn’t want Zilkie to get her a card, but Zilkie insisted.

Zilkie likes the sentiment expressed on it: “This extra special thank you sent to you to today, holds more appreciation than any words can say.”

Quann is equally appreciative of Zilkie.

“I’m so grateful to have finally met Ellen. She is truly a sweetheart,” she said.

Asked about her own role, she remarked:

“Honesty and kindness goes a long way, I believe that you get what you put out in life.”

Read more: ‘I’d never held $4,000 before:’ Salmon Arm citizen doesn’t hesitate to find owner of $100 bills

Read more: GoFundMe set up to reward Salmon Arm woman for her honesty
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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