OBERLIN, Ohio — A solid waste collection agency in Ohio helped a Lorain County family avoid disaster last week after they mistakenly threw out thousands of dollars in cash.
Six days a week, Republic Services trucks dump 4,500 tons of trash into its landfill in Oberlin.
"Trucks coming in from every direction — downtown Cleveland all the way to Vermilion, dumping garbage," said operations supervisor Gary Capan.
Last Wednesday started no differently until Capan said they got a frantic call from one of their customers saying she lost something important in the garbage.
"It turned out to be $25,000," Capan said. "They were cleaning out their house for their grandmother, and they cleaned out the refrigerator, threw out all the garbage, grabbed all the freezer stuff and put it in a bag, and then the grandma was like, 'Hey, there's an envelope with $25,000 in there, don't lose that,' and she's like, "Grandma, I already lost that, it's in the garbage!"
Capan said they immediately got to work to find the missing money.
"One team was trying to track down the driver and find out exactly what his location was and if he made it to the landfill yet," Capan said.
He said once trash hits the landfill, it's game over.
"What happens when they get to the landfill is, they will come in, they'll drop off their load of garbage, the bulldozers will immediately start smoothing it out, pushing it into the hill, dropping dirt on it and start covering up the process of the landfill. And we do that in a nonstop process," Capan said. "If it got dropped there, there's no finding it anymore."
Fortunately, the truck driver had not dropped his load at the landfill yet, so Capan and his team made arrangements to have the truck driver drop off his six-ton load at a recycling center in Oberlin.
As soon as the driver dumped the load, all hands were on deck to find the cash.
"I told the girls, if it's in there, we'll find it for you because they were pretty upset," said Dan Schoewe, the operations manager at the recycling center.
Schoewe was one of the 10 workers who jumped in to search for the money and was the lucky one who spotted the bag it was inside.
"Couldn't believe it took 10 minutes," Schoewe said. "I said, 'Man, it looks just like that,' pulled it off, opened it up, and there was the package inside with the money. They were so happy; they were tearing up."
Over the years, the Republic Services team has found live checks, jewelry and cash for customers — but it isn't easy.
"It can be very, very difficult. It's rare that we can find something for somebody. So this is like the biggest one I've seen in 30 years," Schoewe said.
Fast action and incredible teamwork resulted in a happy ending for the Lorain County family.
"Makes us feel good here. Made myself feel good. I was like, 'yeah, that's awesome.' What a great story. And we're just glad to help," Capan said.
This story was originally published by Jade Jarvis on Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland.