COVINGTON - Newton County resident Felicia Hays says angels come in all shapes and sizes, and one came to her looking like Walter Stokes Friday morning.
Hays lost her wallet and Stokes found it. He said he's embarrassed because everyone finds it so unusual that he went out of his way to track down Hays and return her wallet.
"I've had my wallet stolen and I know that what's in it is way more important than money," he said. "She had five credit cards, her Social Security card and her daughter's Social Security card, her driver's license and health insurance cards. Having been on the other side of the fence, I know how it feels."
The circumstances around finding the wallet were a little strange because Stokes and another man actually found it about the same time.
"Me and a young man were walking in opposite directions down Pace Street and we both saw the wallet," he said. "The young man was about two steps ahead of me and picked it up and looked inside and found a $20 bill and two $2 bills."
Stokes said the man took the $20 and asked him if he wanted the remaining $4, but Stokes told him no.
"It wasn't worth it. I know times are hard," Stokes said, adding that he is out of work and looking for a job himself. "But God takes care of us one way or the other. It would be nice to walk down the street and find $20, but I don't want it at someone else's expense."
Stokes said he asked the young man if he could have the wallet and he turned it over to him and walked away.
Stokes has recently moved back to Covington after a 16-year absence - he was president of the Newton High School Class of '93 and has moved back to be near his daughters who attend Eastside High. He determined that the best place to go was to the Historic Courthouse. He found Herman Bradford and he, along with several others, were able to track down Hays' cell phone number from information inside her purse that showed her former place of employment.
When he called Hays, Stokes said, "She was at the sheriff's department crying her head off. I waited on her to come pick it up. She was as sweet as can be."
Hays said she lost the wallet when she was pumping gas at Kroger the night before and drove off with it on top of her vehicle.
"I dreamed what I had done and woke up at 6:30 and realized what I had done," Hays said.
She went to Kroger and employees there pulled video tape, but it only showed her leaving with the wallet on top of the car. She looked all around the parking lot and in nearby bushes, but found nothing. She said she remembered a Georgia State Patrol trooper was at the bank adjacent to the Kroger lot and thought he might have turned it in at the Sheriff's Office.
"I went there, but they didn't have any record of it," she said. "I was in the parking lot leaving the Sheriff's Office when I got the call that he had found my wallet."
And, when Stokes told the Newton County Sheriff's Office about the other young man taking the $20, a deputy was able to track him down, as well.
"He even got my money back," Hays said. "I went to El Charro's to eat, and they brought my money back to me there."
Hays said she told the story to her fellow employees at Food Depot and nobody believed her.
"He (Stokes) is truly a blessing - an angel sent from God. My debit card was in there. They could have used my debit card," she said. "I call him my guardian angel."
Stokes said it shouldn't be out of the ordinary for someone to return a wallet.
"The word they use today is 'karma,'" he said. "But the word I was brought up on is, 'You reap what you sow.' Later on that evening, someone randomly gave me $20, and I thought, 'OK, this works.'"
He said he felt like he and the young man who took the money were both at a crossroads.
"I feel bad he made the choice he made. I don't know his reasoning," he said, adding that he might try to find him and make sure he knows the difference in choosing right from wrong.
Stokes said he's looking for a job and would be glad to hear from anyone out there who might have some leads for him. He's worked as a supervisor in a warehouse, in customer service and in computer repair. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org