When Woodrow Wilson Jr. visited a pawn shop in Junction City, Kansas, 30 years ago, he was a 28 year old soldier stationed at a nearby Army base. At the time, he pawned USD $100 worth of bonds for a little extra spending money.
But he had no idea that the money would find its way back to him when he was 58 years old, and in need of it the most.
Chris Mathis took over the family pawn shop from his father. He was cleaning out his grandfather’s desk one day when he found bonds that had been sold to the shop decades ago, by people desperately strapped for cash.
He returned bonds to around 50 unsuspecting previous customers, but there was one name left that he was having trouble finding. He spent a year searching for Woodrow Wilson Jr., who had cashed USD $100 worth of bonds 30 years earlier.
All Chris knew about Woodrow was that he was from Chicago and had been based at an army base nearby when he sold the bonds. He had one picture of Woodrow from Chicago police: a mugshot from when he’d been arrested for loitering a few years earlier.
But Chris was determined, and in the end he managed to gain the attention of Chicago residents who recognised Woodrow, after contacting a local newspaper.
Woodrow was living on the streets of Chicago, and was a well-known figure amongst the locals. After hours searching, a local reporter tracked Woodrow down to give him the news that his 37 year old bonds – which had now matured and were worth USD $3000 – were going to be returned to him.
Thought it was a scam
At first Woodrow didn’t believe what the reporter was telling him. “She told me about it, but I thought she was trying to trick me,” he tells WGN9.
But after a phone call with Chris, he realized that this was no trick.
“He could have kept it himself and cashed it in,” Woodrow says to WGN9. “I’m surpised he’s going to give it back to me. It means alot because I don’t have nothing. It really helps me.”
Woodrow has been unable to find a place at the local homeless shelters for two weeks. “They’ve been jam-packed. You just can’t get in,” he tells news agency WGN9, before adding that the money from the bonds will help keep him off of the streets for the rest of the winter.
A special moment
Chris explains that being able to reunite previous customers with their bonds is worth alot to him.
“I’ve had a few people ask me ‘Are you crazy?’,” he tells The Chicago Sun Times. “But a homeless veteran will be sleeing in a warm bed tonight. I know I did the right thing.”
Watch the moment that Woodrow discovered he would get his bonds back in the newsclip below:
What an incredible gesture. Chris spent his own time tracking down strangers to do something good for those in need. That deserves all the praise in the world.
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