The holiday season is over, but a memory of the spirit of generosity that defines that time of year comes courtesy of Maxine Holder, a maintenance worker at LaGuardia Playground near S. 4th and Roebling streets.
This past Dec. 9 at around 11 a.m., Holder, a 46-year-old mother of four, had just finished cleaning the playground when she noticed a white envelope, conspicuous because it was the only piece of trash in what was otherwise a spotless playground.
Holder picked up the envelope, and feeling by its weight that there was something in it, opened it up and found around $4,000 in checks and money orders. They were all made out to David Pagan, Executive Director of Los Sures, the nearby community and housing organization.
The money, Holder realized, was rent money that had evidently been dropped on the ground. So without thinking twice, she took her lunch break and walked to one of the addresses listed on the checks, eventually finding her way to Los Sures’ nearby office and returning the money.
“I said to myself, ‘This is rent money. This is $4,000 that belongs to someone.’ It was close to my lunch hour, and I didn’t want to hold it for too long,” she remembered.
Holder’s effort averted what would have been a huge inconvenience at best for Los Sures.
“It definitely saved a lot of time and additional work. We would have had to go back to the tenants and gone through [cancelling the checks and money orders and cutting new ones] with them,” Pagan said.
Although he was not sure, he speculated the checks and money orders were being taken to the nearby Chase bank to be deposited.
He continued: “It was very nice what she did. It’s great to find the Maxines of the world. The incident confirmed my opinion that most people are very good and very honest.”
A Bedford-Stuyvesant resident, Holder has worked in LaGuardia Park for the better part of three months as part of the Paid Transitional Jobs program, which seeks to bring people from welfare to the workforce.
She said she likes her job, and a recent trip to the playground by this paper, during which nary a scrap of litter was found, bears out that she takes great pride in her work. She hopes to be hired by the Parks Department full-time when her temporary employment ends in April, and is looking into getting a truck driver’s license that would qualify her for a possibly available full-time job.
In the meantime, her good deed did not go unrewarded: For returning $4,000 in checks, she received a $200 check from an anonymous member of the Open Space Alliance, the North Brooklyn public-private advocacy partnership for the area’s parks.
“I like to be honest,” she said. “I don’t like to lose anything of mine and not get it back, so I try to do the same thing.”