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Like many college students around the country, Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti and Laura Russo, were trying to furnish their apartment on the cheap. Looking for an inexpensive couch, the three students went to a New Paltz, New York Salvation Army to scout out their next living-room addition.

For $20, the kids came home with an old couch, filled to the brim with envelopes of money.

The girls made the surprising discovery under an old arm rest, shortly after bringing the couch home. After finding one envelope of money, they kept searching and ultimately came up with $40,000 in cash.

For a brief moment, the girls imagined what they would do with all of their new riches, until one of them found an envelope with a woman’s name on it. With the help of their parents, they were able to track down the woman.

“We all agreed that we had to bring the money back to whoever it belonged to . . . We didn’t earn it,” Russo said.

When they arrived at the home of an elderly woman in Hudson Valley, they were told that the woman’s husband would give her cash every week, and she would stow it away in the sofa. After a recent hospitalization, her daughter ditched the couch in favor of a new bed for the old woman. While she was grateful for the returned money, the students left with a $1,000 reward for doing the right thing.

“When we handed the money back to the woman, she told us that she felt like her husband was present in the room with us,” Guasti said.