SAULT STE. MARIE — What are the odds of finding a lost diamond ring amid 40 tonnes of recyclable paper items within 30 minutes?
That would be an interesting problem for mathematicians to try and solve, and the question comes after an especially good news story happened in the Sault this week.
A local woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, is rejoicing after the crew at GFL Environmental found her engagement ring lost when she accidentally tossed it into her recycling container along with some paper items last week.
GFL employees found the ring amid a mountain of paper at the company’s Sackville Road plant.
The ring was mistakenly thrown out, the woman’s recyclable bin emptied by GFL Wednesday, the load taken to the plant.
Realizing her mistake, she sent an email to a friend who works for the City of Sault Ste. Marie.
GFL staff began their workday Thursday with their typically early start at 6:30 a.m.
John Martella, GFL district manager, discovered the office had received a rare overnight email from a second City of Sault Ste. Marie employee who had been alerted to the woman’s distress over the lost ring.
“I noticed the email, that a lady had lost her engagement ring. Then I got a call from the lady herself, saying she had lost her ring and describing the circumstances. Our guy in the plant was already baling the paper because we start up early. I called the guy on the radio and told him to stop baling because we have a lady who’s lost something valuable and we have to investigate,” Martella said, speaking to SooToday.
The woman later arrived at GFL.
“She was shaken up. It was precious to her.”
Despite the cost to the company to shut down operations in order to look for the ring, Martella said after the woman left GFL, “I went back into my office...I called in a few guys and said ‘we have to fix this. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.’ She was shaking because she had lost something really important to her.”
Martella and a group of employees made arrangements to conduct a special search for the ring (without letting the distraught woman know).
Martella called the woman and asked her if there were any other items she remembered putting into the recycling box that could be visually identified easily, hoping the small diamond ring would be nearby those items.
“She said her six-year-old son does a lot of colouring on paper with crayons (some of which she had thrown into her recycling container, along with a distinctive-looking bag from her veterinarian)...so we quarantined the pile, called all the drivers and asked them what truck was picking up recycling in her neighbourhood that day. It was like forensics. We sectioned off the pile from that truck and got exactly to where we thought that pile of paper would be,” Martella said.
“I went in there and saw a piece of paper coloured by crayons...so I said ‘it’s got to be in here.’”
“One of my guys (Chris Dovigi) went in with a bucket. No sooner did he drop the bucket, the ring fell out.”
“It was just amazing,” Martella said.
“The excitement, to find that ring in the shop, with my men. A couple of guys screamed and yelled ‘we found it, we found it.’ It happened that easy, that quick,” Martella estimating it took only 30 minutes into the recovery operation to find the ring.
“It was team building. It was good for my guys. They made somebody’s day. We’re going through a crisis with COVID-19, so to do something like that makes you think ‘we can beat this thing, we can beat this, we can win this.’ Good things happen in bad times.”
Martella called the woman about the exciting retrieval of her ring.
“She was ecstatic. She had no idea we were looking for it.”
“You have to put yourself in that position. The ring was very valuable. It wasn’t cheap. Insurance would have covered it but insurance has nothing to do with it. It was valuable,” Martella said.
“With everything going on, everybody’s on a downer, they’re depressed, they’re quarantined, there’s COVID, places are shutting down, people are trying to pay their taxes, their mortgage, and this hits her when everybody’s feeling down...so compiling all the bad that’s come out of this, something good happened for her. And for my staff and myself, it was phenomenal.”
Meanwhile, the woman, in an email to SooToday, wrote “I can’t thank them enough, that in the middle of a pandemic, in a time of social distancing, they were kind enough to stop and help me and not brush me off...these men are hardworking, enormously considerate, and will go above and beyond. I would also like to thank all those who work in waste collection too, who are unable to stay home because they are an essential service.”
“It was meant to be...it was God’s blessing,” Martella said.