Like a pebble skipping across a placid pond, doing the right thing can be a catalyst that sends countless ripples cascading into the universe.
That’s certainly been the case where a certain $30,000 piece of jewelry is concerned. The object in question is a white-gold and diamond-accented engagement ring that was lost, found and then returned to the rightful owners in October due to the honesty of Snook Inn owner Luigi Carvelli, his staff and an unknown customer-good Samaritan.
It’s a story that ends with the group good deed resulting in the owner making a $1,000 contribution to Marco Island Academy’s girls’ soccer team that ultimately benefitted the boys’ squad, while also serving as an ideal life-lesson for the players.
“This was such an amazing gesture,” said Darrin Palumbo, head coach of MIA’s girls’ soccer team. “It’s just an amazing, feel good, pay-it-forward story.”
First, let’s go back to the beginning. On the evening of Oct. 15, a customer turned in a ring they’d found in the Snook Inn’s parking lot to the manager on-duty, Matt Schermerhorn, who stored it in the office safe at the day’s end. He also noted the event in his end-of-shift report, which caught the eye of fellow manager Megan Criser when she reviewed the report the next morning.
She told Carvelli about the ring when he arrived at the office.
“I showed it to him and he said, “oh, it looks fake,’ said Criser. “So I turned it around and saw that all the parts were soldered and I said, ‘It’s not fake because who’s going to solder a fake ring?’”
With that, the ring was returned to the safe, while they pondered how to find the rightful owner. At one point, Criser suggested posting something about the ring on social media. “We decided not to do that because then anybody can claim ownership,” said Carvelli. “We went back and forth and back and forth and I said, ‘Somebody’s going to have to come forward about losing a ring at the Snook.’
That person appeared two days later when Criser was scrolling through a Marco-oriented social media page and spied a post from a Bob Sanford that stated, “$1,000 reward for missing/lost white gold diamond ring. I can identify with picture if you find.”
Criser responded in the comment section by asking him to give her a call, which Sanford did. He then sent a photo of the ring, which she passed along to her boss. “I said Megan, it’s the ring,” said Carvelli. “It looks just like it.”
So he called Sanford to inform him that his shot in the dark had been successful and the ring had been found. He couldn’t believe it,” said Carvelli. “He almost started to cry over the phone.” He said he was going to have his fiancee come and pick it up. She hugged me like I was a saint. I gave her the ring and she took out a checkbook and said I need to give you $1,000. I said, No, you don’t.’”
But Sanford’s wife to be, Laurie Taylor, insisted.
“I said look, we’re trying to help the Marco Island Academy so instead of giving it to me, make the check payable to them,” recalled Carvelli. That’s exactly what Taylor did. Carvelli next phoned his good friend, Palumbo, to tell him about the unexpected windfall and how it came to be.
The program had already received a $4,000 donation from the four Marco restaurants owned by Carvelli and his family: the Snook, Da Vinci Ristorante Italiano, The Oyster Society and Marco Prime Steaks and Seafood. He shares ownership with his brothers Sal and Francesco, and their cousins, Adamo and Francesco Serravalle.
“Now we have another $1,000 of found money coming in,” said Palumbo. “I have to admit that I got a little bit teary eyed because I’d already had a great stretch of generosity across the island.”
In Florida, charter schools such as MIA are responsible for funding their sports programs without governmental assistance. Palumbo said the Carvelli and Serravalle families have been among his program’s chief annual benefactors.
Palumbo forwarded the $1,000 donation to the boys’ program because his team had met its fundraising goal for the school year. The boy’s team’s coach, Matt Poland, is in his first year at the school and he’s new to the island. He was out of town at the time and Palumbo was helping with his team and with fundraising.
“I sent him a text saying, ‘Hey, we were blessed with this pay it forward story of the ring donation and we already have some great generosity from the Carvelli and Serravalle families,’” said Palumbo. “So many people have been generous to our teams without even this happening. Like I said to my team, it’s like a double pay it forward from a generous donor to us to them. We live in a blessed community.”
As for Carvelli, he couldn’t be more proud of his staff for displaying good character in the matter.
“I take a lot of pride in what I do and obviously, all of my employees are part of me, of my makeup, my family, my culture, my business,” he said. “Everything I do revolves around my employees. To have two of them return such a valuable asset to the owner and to show the loyalty, it’s just amazing. It’s very emotional for me. It’s important to be able to say I really have great people working for me. To have people like that in my company, it’s priceless. It really is.”