Milwaukee Journal Sentinel June 2, 2000 Friday

Hmong pair presented with check for $15,000; Couple who threw savings in trash express gratitude for others' generosity

CHRIS NELSON Special to the Journal Sentinel

Appleton -- One of the darkest days of their lives has turned to light, a Hmong immigrant couple said Thursday as they were presented with a $15, 000 check, part of donations that poured in from all over the United States after their life savings went out with the trash.

According to Lynn Hopfensperger of the Wisconsin Media Credit Union, who coordinated the fund drive, more than $36,000 has been received for Ka Mai Xiong and his wife, Chao Vang, who lost $11,000 by accidentally putting it in the garbage.

The couple, who had saved the money they lost to buy a car, refused to accept the total amount donated, and have asked that the balance be donated to charity, "for those who don't have much." They indicated that recipients did not need to be part of the Hmong community.

Teary-eyed as she presented flowers and the check to the couple Thursday, Hopfensperger said, "I still believe in Santa Claus." But she expressed disbelief that so many people were so generous with people they didn't know.

Speaking through interpreter Pam Vang, an intercultural relations coordinator for the Appleton Police Department, Xiong said: "One of the darkest days of our lives was the day it happened. Today the day has turned from dark to light. To all of you who helped, we will remember you until our dying day."

In a written statement translated by Chue Thao, another Appleton police officer serving as a liaison and an interpreter for the Hmong couple, they said, "Today we are happy because of you and would like to thank you, each of you, from the bottom of our hearts for your kindness. Thank you to the old and the young for your donations. You saved our lives. We love each one of you. There is nothing that can replace your kindness."

The statement says they would "remember this day always. We wish each one of you happiness and good health."

Thao said that on the day the couple, who are in their 50s, learned of the money raised for them, they were crying "because of the love and generosity" of people who didn't know them.

One 5-year-old boy came into the police station to give his $2.50 birthday money, said John DeLong, police communications officer. DeLong said he asked the boy why, and the boy answered, "Because they lost all their money."

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