Canesha Blackman did not even think to open the zippered bag she found outside a city building last month.
The homeless woman just went back inside and turned it in, then returned to the task of scraping up enough change to take the bus to her job at a Checkers restaurant.
It turned out the bag belonged to a sheriff's detective and held $800. Polk County Deputy Sandy Scherer had driven off with the bag on the hood of her car. When she came back looking for it, she was told Blackman, 24, had turned it in.
Subsequent events have changed the life of Blackman, a single mother with five children ranging from 6 years to 6 months, as the good deed has prompted a flood of goodwill.
Scherer went to the Salvation Army homeless shelter where Blackman and her children were living to say thanks. A reporter for the local newspaper, the Ledger, got wind of what happened and published an article. From there things took off, with donations and offers of other help pouring in. Weeks later it is still happening.
"People give me money on the street," said Blackman, who moved from Tampa to Lakeland a year ago after her marriage went sour. "I'm walking down the street, some people will just walk up and give me $20, give my kids money. They stop and talk to me. They make U-turns to talk to me."
A Tampa businessman who heard about her got in touch and last week put up Blackman and her family in hotel until she can arrange to move into a subsidized apartment. He is also picking up her living expenses for a year and buying her a van.
More than $10,000 has been donated to her through the sheriff's office. Others have given gift cards so Blackman can buy children's clothes.
"When it happened, I didn't even think anything of it," she said. "It's crazy. I've gotten letters from all over. A young girl, she's 18, she wrote me a five-page letter. I have to write her back. I have to write a lot of people back."
Life has kicked Blackman around a bit, but she figures this turn of events will help her. She hopes to earn her high school equivalency diploma, maybe go to cosmetology school. She's also hoping to pursue her dream of being a professional singer.
Scherer said Blackman is "a good-hearted person who has a lot of spirit and energy."
"I'm very happy for her," Scherer said. "I was hoping that people would feel the same way and want to help, and they have."
Joe Fisher, general manager of a gospel radio station near Lakeland, started talking about the story on his morning show, prompting donations from listeners and churches. He also offered to record a voice demo for her to try to boost her singing career.
"In our community we see so much negative that we needed to help a kid who was doing positive," Fisher said.
Blackman does not think she did anything special and is not sure she deserves all the fuss.
Still, she said, "I think it was meant for me."