When Joe Cornell was watering plants and trees at the Salvation Army in downtown Fresno, California, when his eyes caught a sight most people see only in the movies.
A Brinks armored car stopped nearby — and Cornell said the driver dropped a bag and then pulled away.
Cornell hoofed it over to the orange bag in the middle of the street, and sure enough, it was filled with cash — $125,000.
For a guy with $1 in his pocket who’s working to kick a crystal meth habit and hoping for a new lease on life, such a discovery would seem a good start to many.
But Cornell — who’s been living at the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center for the last four months — had different thoughts after he found the money Tuesday. In fact, he said his first reaction was for all the people who’d be hit with a loss.
“I thought, ‘What type of man do I want my grandkids to think I am?’” Cornell told KMPH-TV in Fresno. “I want them to think I’m a just man that does the right thing and I did the right thing.”
So Cornell called police about the money, and he said they told him not everybody would have turned the cash in.
But that isn’t the end of the tale.
After Brinks got their money back, they turned around and gave Cornell a $5,000 reward, KMPH reported, adding that Brinks also donated $5,000 to the Salvation Army rehab center. The reporter toward the end of the below clip even gets emotional in the retelling:
Virginia Cornell, who burst into tears when she heard about her husband’s honesty, said she’s happy about the “new start” the reward money can give the couple.
“We are going to use the money to pay off my rent and pay off my truck so we can get out of the hole,” she told the station.
Kayo Loveless. the director of the rehab center’s program, called Cornell — who graduates in July — a “hard worker.”
“He’ll leave out of here and he is going to need a job absolutely,” Loveless added to KMPH.
Virginia Cornell already knows her husband has one big quality all employers find valuable: “Anyone that needs an honest man to hire, we know that he’s an honest man. He just gave back $125,000 that wasn’t his.”
Cornell said he sees God’s purpose for him in all that’s happened.
“I’m finding that God is the reason I’m here,” he told KMPH. “He’s got a higher purpose for me. I’m just trying to follow his will, and let his will be done and see what happens.”
KMPH reported that after its story broke some have stopped by the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center and offered donations to Cornell; a few members of the Fresno County Deputy Sheriff’s Association even dropped off barbecue.
Here’s the initial report from KMPH before the Brinks reward: