ADEL – In 2000, Lindsey Fender was a student at Valwood. She was proud of her new class ring – white gold with a dark blue stone representing her birthstone, with a basketball goal on one side, the moon and stars on the other, and her name etched on the inside.
Then she was crying. “I couldn’t find it anywhere,” she said recently, holding a box in her hand. “I was devastated. I felt like I’d wanted it so bad and probably took it everywhere when I shouldn’t. I thought I probably didn’t deserve it.”
For Christmas that same year she was down to her final gifts, digging through her stocking – traditionally filled with candy. Stuck down in the toe, the last thing left to discover, was a new class ring, identical to the one that had disappeared.
All was well again. But Lindsey never forgot about that ring and carried a slice of guilt around with her.
Fast forward to 2018.
Barbara Merwin, from Adel, volunteers at Grace Community Church, a food and clothing pantry. She had collected donations when the tornado crashed through Adel, Cecil and Nashville, sorting through the donations brought in from people wanting to help.
A few months ago, Barbara was going through some of the left-over donations and found a red bag in her closet. She remembers it didn’t have any tags on it and she had set it aside. She got it back out thinking she could send it to her great-niece in Texas, which she did.
Barbara got a call from Texas. Inside the red tote was a pocket Barbara hadn’t noticed in which was found a hard piece of candy, a hard piece of gum, a pair of tarnished earrings – and a Valwood class ring. 2001. A blue stone. A basketball goal. Moon and stars. And Lindsey etched on the inside.
“I thought, well let me call my friend at Valwood, Katie Houseman, who works in the office there, and see if she can help me figure out who it belongs to,” Barbara said. She was told their records didn’t go back that far, but Katie pulled a yearbook from 2001. Out of that class of only 75, there was only one Lindsey.
A Valwood classmate Susanna Dover Harris was contacted. She had been the 2000 Valwood Homecoming Queen, and had crowned Lindsey as the 2001 Homecoming Queen. She called Lindsey immediately.
“I have a weird story for you,” she told Lindsey.
Lindsey was dumbstruck.
“An hour later, Lindsey called me and we had the best talk,” Barbara said. “I asked her if she had donated for the tornado relief and she said yes. I knew it was her ring. For 18 years it was lost and in that bag. I just thought it was the best story. There’s so much bad news out there today. I’m so happy to have a good story to tell.”
Lindsey was thrilled to get the ring back, although she has no recollection of putting it in the red bag all those years ago. She assumes she must have put it in there when she was at basketball practice.
And when the tornado hit and so many people were out of clothes and other items, Lindsey donated to the cause – including that long-lost red bag that had been in her closet all those years.
“It’s like my mom was saying,” Lindsey reflected. “It’s good karma. I got something in return for what I gave.”
Now Lindsey has two class rings.
“This one is so special,” Lindsey said, twisting the ring on her finger. “Because it traveled so far.”