Gobble Gobble: Finders Not Keepers

To Mr. O'Kitten's amusement, I joined the Turkey Fund last week (read on, and all will be explained) and found $1.11 in seven days. (With my mother-in-law as a founding member, how could I resist?) My walk to and from work turns out to be quite profitable, populated as it is with parking meters, bus stops, and pay phones.

And now from today's NY Daily News, it turns out that good deeds do not always go unpunished...I mean, unrecognized. I only wish my Grandma were around so I could send her the clipping--she would have appreciated the Turkey Fund on every level.

"Finders not keepers in Turkey Fund"

BY Leigh Remizowski, NY Daily News

Tuesday, February 10th 2009, 10:24 AM

WHEN CAROL Clarke started taking 2-mile walks for exercise near her Glendale home 10 years ago, she found there was an unexpected side benefit.

There was money to be made - if she kept her eyes peeled.

After years of casually picking up loose change, Clarke, 59, and her exercise partner, Magdalene Sweeney, 101, realized their found loot could be the seed for a lucrative charity.

With $40 in coins she had already picked up off the streets, Clarke started the Turkey Fund in 1999. The charity is supported by friends and family who donate money found in their day-to-day lives. Most members are parishioners of Saint Pancras Church in Glendale.

"The bigger picture is that we're helping people," said Clarke, the club's "Head Turkey."

The fund got its name because Clarke and Sweeney donated their initial spoils to a homeless shelter for a turkey dinner. Now, each October, members pool their findings and donate to various charities.

Most of the money nowadays goes to St. Margaret's parish in Flushing. They have also donated to Hurricane Katrina victims.

Members have collected $2,097 since 1999, averaging about $200 a year. The club has 28 members today. Each has a membership card and a film canister for storing coins.

Over the years, the fund has established rules that, if broken, can lead to probation or expulsion from the club.

"The rules evolved because of peoples' complaints," Clarke said.

The most controversy has been over which member receives credit for a find. The rules clearly state that kicking, punching, biting, shoving or cursing are allowed - only if the person being fought for the money is not a fellow member. One rule states that the person who bends over to pick up the money gets the credit, rather than the one who spots the dough.

And the rules aren't taken lightly. New member Pat Amato, 70, left Clarke a phone message asking whether she could accept three dimes that her husband found in the snow.

In the end, the money was deemed acceptable for donation.

Members don't get any credit for money found in a church and they must donate any money they find - coins or bills.

As long as members follow the rules, just about anything goes.

"One member stuck her hand in a public toilet bowl for three quarters," Clarke said. "That was above and beyond the call of duty."

Member Arthur Krumm, 60, said capitalizing on others' carelessness pays off. Once, he found $2.86 in a CoinStar machine at the grocery store.

He and other members have seen a decline in loose change since the advent of the MetroCard, especially at bus stops.

But members still have their methods. Sometimes Krumm deliberately parks at the back of parking lots so he can scan more ground for change.

"People walk right past pennies," Krumm said. "But I pick them up."


Chris said...

That's a great story of how a little bit can add up and make quite a difference.

mrspao said...

What a great thing to be part of.

Puss-in-Boots said...

What a wonderful idea. And it's much better than keeping the change for oneself...this way people's carelessness is helping others.

Obsidian Kitten said...

I found 10 more cents on my way to the movies tonight. =)

Anonymous said...

Can we have branches of the Turkey Fund in other cities? Can you post the full bylaws somewhere? This would be such a fun project for my kids to do over a year!--Ashley

Obsidian Kitten said...

Ashley--Thanks for asking! I know there are two Turkey Fund members in California, so why not?

I'm checking with the Head Turkey to get you all the info...if you would, please e-mail me: