Dianne Gordon’s green Jeep Liberty broke down about a year ago, and ever since, she’s been walking 2.7 miles each way to and from work, five days a week. Her car couldn’t be fixed, and Gordon, 65, couldn’t afford to buy a new one.
It takes her about an hour to walk from her home in White Lake Township, Mich., to VC's Fresh Marketplace in Waterford Township, where she works behind the deli counter, slicing meat and serving salads. When her shift is over, she walks home.
"I didn't have a choice," said Gordon, who lives alone. "I had to have a positive attitude."
Gordon's regular walks are usually uneventful. On Jan. 21, though, she spotted something unexpected: A Ziploc bag, filled with $14,780.
About 5:30 p.m. that day, Gordon was on her usual walk home. It was a notably cold afternoon, and she decided to stop at a gas station for a snack.
As she opened the door, "I happened to look down, and there was a bag of money," Gordon said. "I picked it up, and there were some papers that went with it, and I turned it over, and there was even more money."
She knew the money would be life-changing for her, she said, but she refrained from opening the cash-filled bag.
"I just looked at it, and I knew it wasn't mine," Gordon said. "I knew what I needed to do."
She went into the gas station, clutching the bag of cash in her hands, and immediately called the police.
An officer arrived at the gas station shortly after she called and took possession of the bag of cash. Within two hours, one of them called Gordon to let her know that they had tracked down the people who the money belonged to. It was a young couple who had gotten married earlier that day.
"There were wedding cards with a name on it, and we were able to get the money back to them," said Police Chief Dan Keller of the White Lake Township Police Department, who said the newlyweds were overwhelmed with gratitude at Gordon's honesty.
"She didn't hesitate, she didn't question it," Keller said. "This doesn't happen very often, that someone finds a large sum of money and turns it in."
"Some people would do that, and some people wouldn't," he continued. "She didn't give it a second thought."
Gordon said she acted on instinct.
"If it doesn't belong to you, you don't keep it," she said. "I didn't do anything special. All I did was return something that didn't belong to me."
Still, people in the local community and beyond praised her for her integrity - and decided they wanted to give something back to her.
Stacy Connell, whose husband was the police officer that responded to the initial call, was touched by Gordon's act and set up a GoFundMe page for her.
"As a police officer's wife, I typically hear the bad things, so this was obviously heartwarming," said Connell. "I was hoping we could help her get a car, since she could have walked into any dealership and used that money."
In less than one week, more than $60,000 has been donated from strangers near and far. The GoFundMe page is filled with comments, many of which echo similar sentiments, such as, "there are still good people in this world," and "it is a rare story of kindness."
Gordon said she is stunned by the outpouring of generosity.
"I never expected anything like this," she said. "I am overwhelmed. I was just doing what I was taught to do."
Gordon is grateful to the strangers who chose to support her - both financially, and with their words of encouragement.
"From the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one of them," she said.
Gordon already used the money to buy a new vehicle: a green Jeep Compass, which she said was a major upgrade from her previous car. She got the keys on Feb. 3.
"I absolutely love it," she said. "It's got a steering wheel warmer and a back-up camera; all things I've never had before."
"I'm truly astounded and overjoyed by the outpouring of love for Dianne," said Keller, explaining that the police department teamed up with a local car dealership, Szott Auto Group, to help facilitate the vehicle purchase. "She truly deserves it."
The remaining funds, he said, will go toward car insurance and securing an extended warranty, as well as home repairs.
"We're going to set her up, so she is good to go for several years," said Keller.
Gordon is thrilled to be back behind the wheel. Now, she said, it will be much easier to visit her two grandchildren - ages 13 and 11 - who live about a 25-minute drive away. That's the first place she drove in her new car.
She is also looking forward to driving to work - which will take only 10 minutes - and she plans to offer lifts to her co-workers.
"I'll give them a ride home and pay it forward," Gordon said, adding that she never expected her decision that day to make headlines.
“I didn’t do anything special,” she said. “All I did was return something that didn’t belong to me.”