In a hard-times world choked with self-interest, Ray Leuthauser is a welcome reminder that there are exceptions.
Leuthauser’s act of honesty on Aug. 13 set off a chain of events that has reaped an unexpected windfall for a St. Louis-area homeless organization that had lost a critical donation.
Stlouiscnr.com (left); KTVI-TV (right)
|Ray Leuthauser returned all of Jan Corbett’s $850 for the homeless—and then some.|
Leuthauser is a plasterer for Niehaus Construction Services, a century-old contractor that is one of the largest union construction firms in the St. Louis area. The company’s services include EIFS installation, insulation and fireproofing, and acoustical finishes.
It’s worth noting that neither Leuthauser nor his employer trumpeted their own good deeds. It was Daniel G. Weinstroer, executive director of the St. Louis Painting & Decorating Foundation, who recounted the lemons-to-lemonade tale for the Finishing Contractors Association website.
In any case, it happened this way:
Leuthauser, a member of Plasterers’ Local #3, was headed home from work that Monday. Turning onto the entrance ramp of Interstate 44, he was surprised to see an envelope sitting on the trunk of the car in front of him.
“Within seconds, the envelope flew into the air spilling its contents—cash—all over the entrance ramp and westbound lanes of the highway,” wrote Weinstroer.
Leuthauser “honked his horn repeatedly in a vain attempt to get the driver’s attention” and, when that failed, pulled over and started grabbing whatever cash and other contents he could find along the side of the interstate at rush hour.
“It was literally raining money,” Leuthauser told St. Louis Construction News & Review later. “I pulled over, jumped out of the truck, and started picking it up.”
Searching for the Owner
In all, Leuthauser collected more than $300. And if he were like some people, he would have declared it his lucky day, hopped back in his truck, and headed home.
But he didn’t.
The contents he recovered included a membership card to a nearby wholesale warehouse store. The card was issued to Peter & Paul Community Services, a provider for the homeless.
From the road, Leuthauser used his cell phone to call his wife, to have her contact the center, to try to track down the money’s owner.
Eventually, the Leuthausers learned the name and phone number of the card holder. They also learned that the money was to be used to buy groceries for an upcoming dinner for the homeless.
A Prayer Book and an Envelope
When he got home, Weinstroer reports, Leuthauser contacted the envelope’s owner, Jan Corbett, 77, “who was beside herself, knowing that she had lost the money for the dinner.” (Corbett had been driving her adopted, special-needs child when she lost track of the envelope.)
One problem: Leuthauser also learned that the envelope had originally contained about $850. But he arranged to deliver what he had the next morning.
|Inspired by a colleague, employees of Niehaus Construction Services opened their wallets to a local homeless charity. The company’s portfolio includes work at St. Louis’s famed Chase Park Plaza Hotel.|
When he arrived at her home, a grateful Corbett handed Leuthauser a prayer book and an envelope. She mentioned that she would make up the difference out of her own bank account.
A Cause Grows
When Leuthauser arrived at his jobsite that morning, he opened the envelope to find a thank-you card and $25 for his efforts.
Rather than pocketing his hard-earned reward, Leuthauser immediately went to the jobsite superintendent, told him what had happened, and told him that he was going to return the reward money along with the last $20 he had in his own wallet.
The superintendent told Leuthauser that if he was willing to give his own money, maybe they take up a collection across the jobsite.
They did and, in the end, the union plasterers, painters, electricians, sheet metal workers, plumbers, tapers, carpenters and laborers collected enough money to make up the entire lost donation.
‘Pass It On’
It didn’t end there. One sheet metal worker went back to his union hall and suggested that it get on board with the cause. Sheet Metal Workers Local #36 immediately agreed to match the workers’ contribution to Peter & Paul Community Services in Corbett’s name.
Other unions that represent the workers on the job are also considering contributing on their own, Weinstroer reports.
Leuthauser told CNR: “It would be really nice if all the other locals do what the Sheet Metal Workers did and donate to the shelter.”
For her part, Corbett hopes that Leuthauser’s example will inspire others. “Just pass it on. Pass it on,” she told KSDK-TV. “Do whatever we can do every other minute to help each other.”