One West Hartford woman dropped a significant amount of cash in the lobby of the AAA office, and thanks to another West Hartford woman’s honesty, this story has a very happy ending.
By Ronni Newton
A West Hartford woman was in the right place at the right time to ensure that another woman’s very bad day had a very happy ending, and AAA paid it forward to ensure that this good deed did not go unnoticed.
Clichés have their roots in truth, and this particular story indeed has a happy ending because of the kindness and honesty of Sigita Banevicius, a West Hartford woman and mental health professional who happened to be walking through the lobby on her way out of the AAA Allied office at 815 Farmington Ave. on the afternoon of June 20.
Banevicius reached down and picked up what she thought might be a $20 bill, and realized it was instead $100.
Banevicius had been at AAA getting travel information about some places she was considering visiting. “On my way out I looked down, and saw something folded up,” she said the following Tuesday afternoon when she returned to the office at the invitation of AAA Allied Group Greater Hartford Manager of Public and Government Affairs Amy Parmenter.
No one had seen her, but instead of pocketing the money, when Banevicius found the $100 bill she went right back into the AAA office and started asking if anyone had lost money.
She didn’t tell anyone how much money she had found, and although one man told her he had lost $40, no one claimed the $100. At that point she could have gone home $100 richer, but instead decided to turn it in to a AAA staff member, in case anyone came back looking for it. She said to contact her if no one claimed it in 30 days.
Banevicius said she didn’t even consider keeping the money and thought to herself, “Wow, someone’s really missing $100. I’d really miss it.” She works in the mental health industry, she said, and her thoughts immediately and automatically went to how the other person would be feeling.
“She literally went around the store asking others who were buying memberships or planning trips whether they’d lost the money,” Kate Pinard, a AAA member advisor who watched the scene unfold, said in a statement. “It was surprising to say the least – and wonderfully refreshing!” The money did not belong to anyone in the store.
Other AAA staff were stunned by what Banevicius had done.
Alicia Starkie, a lifelong West Hartford resident, had been at AAA on June 20 attempting to renew her passport but was told she had to go to the post office. She had $100 cash, which she intended to use for the passport, in the front pocket of her shorts along with her phone.
She stopped in the lobby and took out her phone before getting into her car and heading for the grocery store.
She was in line to pay for her groceries when she reached for the money and said, “Oh gosh.”
The money wasn’t at home, or in her car, and Starkie decided to go back to AAA, just in case.
She told the person locking the door for the day that she just needed to ask a quick question.
“It was 5:30. They were just closing. I went to the lady who had helped me,” Starkie said, and asked if there was any chance that someone had turned in $100, and was shocked to hear that was exactly what had happened.
“I wasn’t going to come back. I thought, ‘Who’s going to turn it in?'” Starkie said.
Starkie, who works in the landscaping industry, mostly doing decorative work, wanted to do something nice for Banevicius, so she asked AAA to share her contact information so she could give her an urn full of flowers.
When Banevicius got home from work that day, she had the message from AAA informing her that Starkie had come to claim the money, and arrangements were made for Starkie to deliver her gift.
The incident came to the attention of Parmenter, who was touched by the story and Banevicius’ honesty, and decided that the good deed needed even more recognition.
“We’re not taking any credit. We just wanted to turn around what would have been a negative experience into just the opposite,” Parmenter said. If the money had been pocketed, then Starkie would always associate that with AAA, and she wanted the company to show appreciation for Banevicius’ honesty.
She invited both women back to the AAA office on Tuesday afternoon for a brief presentation.
“We know your membership is up for renewal next month,” Parmenter told Banevicius.
In addition to a goodie bag of travel-related items like a portable phone charger, Parmenter presented Banevicius with a giant facsimile of a AAA card – representing the prepaid renewal of her classic membership, valued at more than $100.
Another added bonus is that the two women, who had never met before, have already become friends.
“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” Banevicius said about turning in the money.
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