MT. VERNON — An anonymous $6,455 donation to the United Way Imagination Station reading program came as a huge surprise to staff.
"I came back from lunch and a UPS envelope was taped to the door," said Lynn Hutchison, community resource director for United Way of South Central Illinois. "I brought it in, thinking it was just another letter we receive, regular business. I tore it open then I saw the letter and the check."
Hutchison said she was stunned.
"I cried, I really did," Hutchison said. "Sometimes you feel like you are spinning your wheels a lot and wonder if you really are making a difference. Then something like this happens and you realize what you are doing is important and others realize this program and others are important to so many people."
Hutchison said her next move was to call United Way Executive Director Rhonda Edmonson, who was home sick that day.
"I got the call, and we both started laughing and talking all at once," Edmonson said. "We really don't know who sent the money. Nothing like this has ever happened to us before."
The letter which accompanied the cashier's check said the donation was to honor the late John Bey.
"The late John Bey was a resident of Mt. Vernon for over 20 years," the letter states. "He passed away this year at the age of 90. He retired to this area because he had several friends who lived here, but he outlived them all.
"John had a varied work history working as a painter for many years in both Chicago and before that the Detroit area. However, John's work was often hampered by his inability to read, and he could barely write. As an African-American growing up in the rural south, his opportunities for education were limited. Raised by his aunt and uncle, he left home at the young age of 14 to work, ending up in Florida where he worked in the shipping docks for many years before heading north.