In my 30-plus years in the news business, this was a first.

I received an unexpected, anonymous gift in the mail that I can only describe as extraordinary.

Yet how does one thank a person whose identity is unknown?

Some people place an ad in the newspaper, I suppose, or post a message on social media or merely shout “thank you” to the universe.

I have the fortunate ability to express my gratitude here, but first, I must relate the back story.

Because we have been working from home since the coronavirus pandemic hit more than a year ago, I stop in at our office periodically to collect my mail.


A week ago Wednesday, I found an envelope on my desk with no return address, postmarked Eastern Maine, April 24.

I opened it to find a short, type-written and unsigned message, accompanied by a $500 money order from a local bank, dated March 31.

It was from a reader who said he has enjoyed my column and news stories over the years and my writing had inspired him and others to give back to our community. I use the pronoun “he” only because I suspect it might be an older man, not only from his handwriting, but also because of the way the money order had been folded a couple of times and was a bit rumpled and warped as if it had been kept in a wallet, inside a back pocket, for a couple of weeks.

The three-paragraph letter goes on to say other complimentary things that I will not repeat here, but suffice it to say, I was quite touched.

“I would like it if you would accept this check in the amount of $500 and donate it to a charity (s) of your choice,” it says.

I stared at the letter and money order, both flattered and humbled.


I pondered long and hard about where to donate this gift, recalling the many charities I’ve written about over the years, most of which benefit people directly with food or clothing or other necessities. I leaned toward donating to one of those.

But my thoughts kept turning to the Humane Society Waterville Area because I know its struggles and the well-meaning people who put their hearts and souls into the animals there to make sure they are safe, well-kept, spayed, neutered and placed in good homes.

We adopted our beautiful orange-and-white cat, Thurston, from there as a kitten three years ago. And during this pandemic, especially, he and our other cat, Bitsy, have provided us much joy and entertainment.

I decided to go with the Humane Society, as it has affected me most personally. I slept on that decision and the next day, drove to the bank from which the money order was written, cashed it and headed to the Humane Society, armed with a $500 check. There, I stepped into Executive Director Lisa Oakes’ office.

I told her the story and handed her the check and anonymous letter. She read it, eyes welling with tears.

“This means so much to us,” she said.


Animals have been particularly important to those who have been alone during the pandemic, she said. The shelter has always been focused on animals, but the pandemic caused a shift in thinking about how people also weigh heavily into the equation.

“The human-animal connection is a strong, many times unbreakable, bond that can heal hearts, ease depression and cure loneliness,” Oakes said. “Because of the pandemic, we were catapulted to begin our Angel Foster program where those experiencing homelessness or domestic violence can bring their animals to us for fostering until the family finds stable, safe housing. The reunions are truly magical. We want to do everything in our power to keep families together.”

I left the shelter that day feeling confident I had done right by my anonymous donor friend who, I’m inclined to say, will one day go straight to heaven.

Many thanks, whoever you are.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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