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?I didn't need to take it'

By Ed Brock

Missy Muir-Lathrop saw a nice looking cooler lying on the roadside and stopped to pick it up.

"It surprised me. It frightened me a little bit so I put the lid back on" after finding a cash box inside the cooler, Muir-Lathrop said.

"Chick-fil-A" was written on top of the cooler, the name of the company owned by Clayton County resident Truett Cathy, who attends the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro where Muir-Lathrop is also in the congregation.

"I thought, OK, this is Truett's," Muir-Lathrop said, never hesitating in what she planned to do with the new-found money.

"I wasn't tempted because I'm a Christian," Muir-Lathrop said. "It wasn't mine. I didn't need to take it."

Muir-Lathrop lives on Poston Road just behind the Harold R. Banke Justice Center on Tara Boulevard and last Thursday she was on her way to the bank and the library when she discovered the cooler near Tara Boulevard's intersection with Ga. Highway 138. A short time before that Chick-fil-A Assistant Manager Katherine Mull had loaded the 48-quart cooler into the back of her pickup truck to take it from the justice center, where Chick-fil-A operates a lunch stand, to the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House restaurant on Tara Boulevard just south of Battlecreek Road.

"That day I had my truck because my car was in the shop," Mull said.

Mull was almost at the restaurant when she turned around and noticed that the cooler was gone. She doubled back but couldn't find it, so she had to call the Dwarf House to let them know what happened.

"I kept saying God, please, send somebody to find it," said Mull, a 14-year employee of Chick-fil-A.

As Mull and her managers prepared to call the police, Muir-Lathrop had loaded the cooler into her backseat, made her stop at the bank, and was on her way to the restaurant. When she arrived she went in and asked for a manager.

"When he came out I said would you sit down please, I have something to tell you," Muir-Lathrop said.

Sitting in a corner booth, she told Manager Michael Rogers about the cooler in her backseat and the moneybox that lay within.

"I told him I did not open it," Muir-Lathrop said. "At no time did it occur to me to open up that box."

McEachern and Rogers confirmed that the cooler was theirs and told Muir-Lathrop that there was about $1,000 in the cash box.

"We just kept telling her how appreciative we were," McEachern said. "With so much negativity in the world it's nice to know there are still honest people in the world."

Returning the money was just the obvious thing to do, said Muir-Lathrop who is retired but still works on the weekends at a Waffle House in Jonesboro.

When Mull returned to the restaurant and discovered that Muir-Lathrop had found the cooler, she had another surprise in store for her.

"(Muir-Lathrop) was the one who taught my daughter quilting," Mull said.

Mull's 20-year-old daughter Dana Mull, also a Chick-fil-A employee, had brought a special project to Muir-Lathrop's quilting group.

McEachern and Mull also showered Muir-Lathrop with gift certificates and more to show their appreciation.

"We basically told her whatever she needs, she gets," McEachern said.