Lost Girl Scout treasures find their way home thanks to good Samaritan

The Fresno BeeApril 3, 2014 

Two and a half years ago, Bonnie Kiser's car was stolen from outside her Fresno home -- but that wasn't the worst of it.

Inside the car were three boxes of historical Girl Scout memorabilia, some 75 years old, including a binder of old photos. Many were treasured personal possessions from her own childhood scouting days, along with items that belonged to her daughter.

When her car was found burned and destroyed in Sanger soon after it was stolen, Kiser, a volunteer historian with Girl Scouts of Central California South, was crushed. Her lifelong collection was destroyed, she thought.

If only she had taken the boxes out of her car the night she returned from an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts, she lamented, she'd still have her precious collection.

This week, Kiser received a big surprise: She walked into the Girl Scout office in Fresno to find the lost items safe and sound.

The hero of this story is a 57-year-old concrete contractor from Clovis named John Torres. Two and a half years ago, Torres found the boxes mysteriously dumped near a subdivision where he was working. He quickly realized they weren't trash. He brought them home and called someone at the Fresno Girl Scout office, he said, but was told they might just be discarded items.

Yet Torres could never bring himself to dump them. While buying Girl Scout cookies recently outside a local store, he talked to a lady about the boxes. She suggested he take them to the Girl Scout office in northwest Fresno.

On Wednesday, that's exactly what he did, and the women there realized who they belonged to.

"They were acting like it was the Holy Grail!" Torres said happily.

The best reaction of all came from Kiser.

"It was like she had a kid all over again," Torres added with a chuckle. "She was so happy."

Another twist: Torres learned that during all those years he guarded the boxes, Kiser lived less than a mile away.

Losing so much of her collection was "devastating," Kiser said. She had gathered many old Girl Scout badges, patches, vests, books and tins.

"I never thought I'd see it again."

Marilyn Deen, chief resource development officer for Girls Scouts of Central California South, said the returned items are a priceless gift.

"They really represent the fun, the history, and the legacy of our girl scouting which has been going on in this area since 1924," Deen said.

Kiser is very grateful to have her treasures back.

"I think we just need more people like Mr. Torres," Kiser said. "I don't know if he'll ever really know how much this all means to me."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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