BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - You could almost call it the “second chance warehouse”; it’s the Salvation Army’s collection point, where people’s donations get a second chance.
People like Chuck sort the donations. He’s also getting a second chance. Chuck is in the Salvation Army’s recovery program for men. He has turned his life over to Christ and works at the sorting warehouse as part of his road to recovery.
“Chuck is an incredible guy and in fact, if you know some of the story, this is the second time that Chuck’s had the ability to do something that would be very detrimental to him, but did the right thing,” said Major Donald Tekautz with the Salvation Army.
And in this case, that right thing that Chuck did? It’s enough to take your breath away...
What’s left over from a World War II veteran’s most prized possessions after a life of service ended up packed away in a box and eventually lost in the family for 40 years... until now.
“It’s like a time machine,” said Lester Bloomenstiel, the son of a WWII veteran.
The Friday before Memorial Day, Chuck was at the warehouse sorting through donations when he came across an old war photo. Meanwhile, 400 miles away in Texas, Bloomenstiel and his wife were thinking about the upcoming Memorial Day, and Lester wondered out loud if he’d ever find his father’s lost things from the war, hoping to find anything to go with the flag from his dad’s casket.
“It’s just one of those God moments, you know, where things begin to roll and begin to put in place,” said Tekautz.
Chuck found another photo, then a real, gold-plated ashtray (in perfect shape), which was a gift from, of all people, Jimmy Hoffa, as well as a lighter to go with it. He also found more old pictures and a name: Lester Bloomenstiel Sr. It was written on the discharge papers next to some precious pieces of history, some of them more than 75 years old.
″I thought it was a joke at first and then I just listened and I was speechless," said Bloomenstiel.
Remember, just that morning, Lester and his wife had wondered what happened to all his dad’s things, which had been lost for decades.
“I was just in disbelief and shock when I called my wife and said, ‘You’re not gonna’ believe this,' and we both cried and laughed and my wife said, ‘Leave now and go get it,’” Bloomenstiel said.
“And to some people, it’s just kind of some stuff, but for this family, it’s their life, their history, and so what a great part we get to play,” said Tekautz.
Lester waited a few days, then made the 400-mile trip on his birthday to reunite with the remnants of his father’s life. Chuck came across some very valuable items that day, things that are actually worth some money, but instead of pocketing them, he did the right thing, making the most of his second chance.
“We hear those things, that the Salvation Army does good, they do do good. Chuck didn’t have to do that,” said Bloomenstiel.
“Our motto is doing the most good. Today, we got to do the exceptional good,” Tekautz said.
“My family will thank you for generations. You guys did the most good. The focus is on you all. Now, we’ve got all the things back and we’re so appreciative of the Salvation Army of Baton Rouge,” said Bloomenstiel.