By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — BEVERLY — A Beverly woman was shopping for handbags at the Marshalls in Swampscott on Tuesday when she came across a particularly attractive find: one that had more than $11,000 in cash inside.
To be exact: $11,340.
Cheryl Gavazzi said she was looking at sweaters when she spotted a Vera Bradley over-the-shoulder bag hanging from the rack. She assumed the bag was for sale and had been placed on the wrong rack.
“I liked it, actually. I was thinking of buying it,” she said. “I wanted to see the size of it, and there was a roll of money in there.”
Gavazzi said she dug deeper to see whose it was and found diapers, wipes and medical records belonging to young children — along with more cash. She thought about contacting store employees but figured it was more a matter for the police, and since she didn’t know where the Swampscott station was, she brought it to officers in Beverly.
It turned out that the bag and its contents had been reported missing to Swampscott police earlier in the evening — by a man who said he had raised the money to help build a church in his native Guatemala, Beverly police officer Dave Costa said. The man provided police with receipts from fundraising efforts over the past year to back that story up.
“You don’t see good deeds like that very often. It was definitely a good thing that she did,” Costa said. “It’s nice to know that there are people out there like that, who do the right thing.”
Gavazzi, an analyst for Eastern Bank, said the man who lost the money contacted her Wednesday morning to thank her, and the two met at the McDonald’s on Highland Avenue in Salem, where he gave her an unspecified cash reward.
“He was actually going to sell his car when he found out this money was lost,” Gavazzi said.
Gavazzi said the man told her his wife had placed the bag on the rack while tending to their young children and forgot about it.
Gavazzi added that she had only done what she hoped other people would have done for her.
“It could be their life savings, for all we know,” Gavazzi said. “It was the right thing to do.”
The man declined to be interviewed for this story through Gavazzi.
Staff writer Paul Leighton contributed to this report.