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Merry Christmas, Mr. Cleveland

Cleveland rocks.

As in, Grover Cleveland, the twice-elected U.S. president whose face is on the now-rare $1,000 bill.

While that marquee currency has been officially out of circulation since 1945, you can still spy one around Morgantown this time of year.

If you know where to look, that is.

Thursday, a bill bearing the president’s stout and serious countenance appeared in a Salvation Army kettle at Bass Pro Shops, in the WestRidge development.

“Oh, wow,” gushed Sheldon Greenland, a Salvation Army lieutenant who helps oversee the outreach agency’s operations across Monongalia, Preston and Marion counties with his wife, Nicole, also an SA lieutenant.

“This is now 43 years,” he said, while shoppers bustled in and out of the sprawling store for anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

“That’s how long our benefactor has been doing this for our community. And we are so very grateful. This is a beautiful tradition for our town.”

No Scrooges in Almost Heaven

Tradition, indeed.

Since 1978, $1,000 bills have been showing up randomly in those red kettles across the region.

The currency always appears in the days before Christmas, with an always anonymous caller dialing up Salvation Army headquarters.

A holiday haiku of when and where, it is.

“Hey. This particular kettle at this particular time. You know, if you want to check.”

Seasonal intrigue is attached.

That’s because of the 76 years the bill has been out of circulation.

The bill Sheldon Greenland was happily showing off Thursday is from the 1928 series – leaving many longtime Morgantown residents to wonder if the whole thing isn’t a bit of altruism from the great beyond.

One of the more persistent rumors is that the offering is from the estate of Morgantown lawyer Hale. J. Posten, who reportedly willed that amount a year to The Salvation Army after his death.

Send in the Marines

However the generosity is delivered, Nicole Greenland said, laughing, she’ll take it – with a North Pole-sized thank you to the benefactor, or benefactors.

“Such generosity,” said the lieutenant, who arrived in Morgantown in 2018 with her husband after Salvation Army postings in Georgia, Ohio and their native Jamaica.

“This is the first thing you hear about when you get here,” she said. “You hear about the benefactor and the bill.”

Both of which couldn’t have showed up at a better time, her husband said.

This year’s kettle drive goal for the counties the couple oversee is $300,000, a benchmark that’s about 40% off the other way.

“It’s not because the community isn’t generous,” he said.

For example, contributions to his organization’s Angel Tree campaign, which provides gifts of toys and clothing to needy youngsters, is soaring like Santa and his reindeer, in contrast.

In the case of the kettle shortfall, he said, it’s because it was tough finding enough people to come out and ring bells this year, due to the pandemic and other particulars.  

That won’t be a problem today. The Marine Corps Service League will ring bells through 4 p.m. to close out this year’s campaign.

“You still have time,” Sheldon Greenland said, smiling. “And you’ll have our thanks, and the thanks of your neighbors.”

‘Now I know’

Mindy Garrison, meanwhile, said she thought it was groovy that Grover landed in her kettle.

The Morgantown area woman has been ringing bells for the past three holiday seasons and happened to be positioned at Bass Pro Shops today.

She didn’t see who dropped in the big money, she said. She just appreciates the overture.

“I know what those dollars do,” she said.

“Every year, I always say, ‘How awesome would it be if my kettle got the bill? Well, now I know: Very awesome.”

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