The Goodwill store in Russellville has a donation that its staff would rather return than sell.
Included in a box that was sorted last week were a collection of military artifacts.
“Friday, I was in our donor area,” Kaitlin Gray recalled, “and I was sorting through a box of what was some art decorations and some Halloween stuff, and I came across this little baggy. When I opened it, I immediately noticed the dog tags, and I immediately thought, you know, this is something that belongs to somebody. It’s gotta be sentimental to somebody.”
The dog tags say William M. Kennedy, and they list his social security number, his O-Negative blood type, and that he was a Buddhist. There was also an Army Good Conduct Medal, a pair of what appear to be challenge coins, and an Elvis Presley pin from Sun Records.
Gray said Monday that her first instinct was to try to find Kennedy on Facebook. “Yeah, I looked, and I couldn’t find anybody that had listed service, or anything like that,” she stated. “And with some of the coins being from Mississippi; there’s an Elvis pin in here, where is, you know, Tennessee. I could never find the exact William Kennedy.”
Gray said her store receives a couple of items a year that make employees stop and try to find their original owners. She said she used Facebook recently to track down a University of Central Arkansas student to give him back photos of him as a baby and announcements of his birth.
After her sleuthing hit a dead end, she asked the Goodwill Industries of Arkansas marketing team to post a photo of Kennedy’s items online to see if anyone recognized them, and more than 200 people have shared it.
Gray said she and her coworkers wonder how the items ended up in their store. “It had to have been an accident,” she reasoned. “You know, maybe it was somebody, they were moving. Maybe it was somebody and they were just cleaning some stuff out and it accidentally got tossed in a box.
“This was at the bottom of the box, so it makes me wonder if, maybe, they weren’t, like, trying to sort through some stuff and found, you know, a couple of things that were, like, ‘oh, you know, I want to keep this.’ And then, maybe somebody else came behind them that lives in the same household and accidentally threw some stuff on top of it and it became a ‘donate box.’”
Gray said she figures the box came from someone locally, rather than in a large delivery from out of town. It also contained Halloween decorations and art supplies, both of which seemed to be coordinated sets.
Gray said that reuniting someone with a precious item always makes her happy, but this quest has a more personal element.
“I come from a military kind of background, myself,” she explained. “My uncle served, and several of my grandpa’s siblings have served. You know, this is something that, if we were to donate something like this, we would immediately want it back. As soon as we realized it was missing, you know, we would be on the prowl for it. We would be searching and hunting, and you know, just hoping that somebody would find it and let us know.”
The only thing about the items that date them is that Elvis signed with Sun Records in 1954, so Gray has no idea if William M. Kennedy is still alive. She hopes so, however, so that she could give him back the memorabilia he earned serving the country.
“I’m extremely thankful for all of our veterans, you know?” she said. “I would tell him, I’m so glad that we found them. I’m so glad that we were able to help you get back your very important memorabilia.”
Anyone who can help Gray and Goodwill Industries return the items to Kennedy or his family can call the store at 479-967-6319 or Goodwill’s marketing department at 501-372-5100.