DALTON, Ga. -- Several days before Christmas, a couple approached a North Georgia Salvation Army bell ringer and handed her a diamond wedding ring and a note.
The note, in hand-written red letters, said, "My husband and I are still deeply in love. We think you could make better use of this ring than we can."
The unusual and touching donation -- a $6,000, 0.72-carat ring dropped in a red kettle with dollar bills and scattered coins -- now is on display at downtown Dalton's Maryville Jewelers, where it will be sold to the highest bidder after 30 days.
Maj. Henry Hunter, with the Dalton Corps of the Salvation Army, said he was shocked and stunned when he heard about the donation.
"Wow -- to share that kind of love with your spouse; to make a lady willing to give up a diamond ring," he said Tuesday. "It shows it's not material things that hold a marriage together. It is love."
When the couple approached the bell ringer, the woman first handed over a plastic bag containing the note, the ring and all the information about it, including when it was certified and its appraised value, Hunter said.
The bell ringer then asked the woman to take the ring out and place it into the red kettle, since the entire package would not fit.
ABOUT THE RING
Stone: .72 carat
Shape/cut: Marquise Brilliant
TO PLACE A SEALED BID
Visit Maryville Jewelers at 108 N. Hamilton St. in Dalton, Ga., or call 706-278-1030. For more information, call the Salvation Army at 706-278-3966.
The brief note concluded with the words "All for Jesus." The Bible verse from John 1:14 is printed on the bottom of the note.
"Those last words are what really touched me," Hunter said. "She was thinking about other people and how they could help more people with money."
Hunter declined to say where the donation was made in order to protect the couple's identity.
The Dalton corps, which serves Murray and Whitfield counties, has struggled to raise money after bringing in $46,000 less in donations over the Christmas season compared to the previous year and seeing an increase in demand for services, Hunter said.
Last week, some people camped out in front of the Salvation Army office for more than 24 hours just to be first in line for rent and utility assistance, Hunter said. Out of the 50 people in line that day, the organization could help only 22 families, he said.
"It is heartbreaking," he said. "We are struggling to revise our budget -- but it was already so lean a piranha would have a hard time eating off it."
Hunter said officials decided to sell the ring through a local jeweler and use the money in the general purpose fund after talking with the Salvation Army board.
On Tuesday, the day after Valentine's Day, the ring and the note were on display just inside the front door at Maryville Jewelers in downtown Dalton.
David Finley, who has been in the jewelry business for more than 40 years, said he never has heard a story quite like this one.
People come in every day just to see the ring, and news agencies statewide have called about it, Finley said. Monday he took a telephone bid from Valdosta, Ga., near the Florida line, he said.
The store will accept sealed bids for about three more weeks, Finley said, before selling the ring.
"You don't see many ladies willing to give up their wedding ring," he said. "It tells how strong a relationship that couple has."
Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-980-5824.