25, No. 12, Dec. 15, 2005
treasures await in limbo in lost and found
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
& Found listing
Another avenue to help reunite lost items with their
owners is Inside Illinois’ Lost & Found
column, which began this semester. Look in the calendar
each issue for new lost or found items or look online
to peruse items for the semester
A computer. A blood-test
kit for diabetics. A violin bow. What do these objects have in common?
They all wound up lost – and found – somewhere on the Urbana
Virtually anything portable and removable has been forgotten in a library,
a gym, on a bus or even on a street, say students and staff members
responsible for dealing with found property and fielding inquiries from
lost owners. A lone shoe. Basketballs. Watches and other jewelry. Bottles
of medicine. Sweatshirts, socks and clothing of all sorts.
A cooler full of food was once left behind at Willard Airport, apparently
by a hungry passenger with a distaste for airline cuisine.
Staff members in many buildings maintain a cache of items that have
strayed from their owners and were turned in. While there is no central
repository for found items on campus, many items, especially valuables
and public property – street signs, for example – are turned
over to the campus police.
“It’s a lot of work just keeping up with all of it,”
said Ed Kavanaugh, a telecommunicator who handles found property for
the Division of Public Safety. A police report is generated for each
found item turned over to the police, then it is recorded in a log and
stored with similar items until the owner claims it.
Megan Casey, a native of Oak Lawn, Ill., who is a junior majoring in
business administration, works at the reception desk at the Illini Union,
a popular destination for meals, studying, meetings and other events
that naturally ends up with a large collection of forgotten eyeglasses,
misplaced cell phones and other property. The spreadsheet used to record
found objects recently listed a staggering 812 items that had been turned
in since January. Items in bold type on the spreadsheet are those that
have been claimed by their owners; red type indicates the objects have
been donated to a local charity, Casey said.
Casey, who has been working at the Illini Union since January, said
that perhaps the most unusual object turned in to the lost and found
at the Union was a wrapped gift.
“In the winter we get about 500 scarves,” she said, in addition
to numerous sets of keys, student ID cards and other belongings.
David Mackinson, a 19-year-old sophomore from Pontiac, Ill., who is
majoring in international trade and in Spanish, works at the reception
desk for Garner, Forbes and Hopkins halls, three buildings that are
among a group of six undergraduate residence halls on Gregory Drive
in Champaign commonly called the six pack.
“A girl came in this morning who had lost her keys, her book bag
and coat,” Mackinson said.
The cache of found items at the desk that day included textbooks, assorted
apparel and an iPod, Mackinson said, but alas, not the items the caller
may have misplaced at the six pack or elsewhere.
Building service workers turn in many items that have been forgotten
in lounges or other public areas; sometimes objects are left behind
or misplaced when students are moving out at the end of the semester,
said Andi Cailles, an area coordinator for the Housing Division at Pennsylvania
Avenue Residence Hall.
“When we find stuff at the end of the year, we keep those things
for 45 days,” after which the items may be donated to local charities,
Cailles said. Other items, such as the violin bow and the diabetes test
kit, may be kept up to a year or two in hopes that the unidentified
owners will turn up.
“It’s always so hard to let stuff go,” Cailles said.
Brett Byrd, security director for the university libraries, said that
a student once called his office hoping to recover a lost rosary. Since
it had not been turned in, Byrd said he “went and looked for it
because I thought it was probably pretty important to them.” But,
as sometimes happens, the treasured item was not recovered, at least
not by Byrd.
Among the most frequently misplaced items are cell phones.
When a misplaced phone is turned in to the lost and found at the Intramural
Physical Education Building, “we try to leave it on in case the
owner calls,” said Kristin Duitsman, assistant director of member
services for the Division of Campus Recreation. “Then when we
answer their phone, they ask, ‘Who are you and why have you got
my phone?’ And we tell them that we’d love for them to come
get it because it’s been ringing off the hook.”
Labeling items might help reunite more owners with their lost property,
as students and staff will try to contact property owners by phone or
by e-mail if they find a name or room number on a found item.
Each unit has its own unofficial policy for the length of time, usually
ranging from a few weeks to up to six months or more, that unclaimed
items are retained before they are donated to local charities or destroyed.
And some items may have second, useful lives. The campus police donate
unclaimed eyeglasses to the Lion’s Club, unclaimed tools to the
campus Facilities & Services Division. And unclaimed briefcases
and suitcases may be used for training or demonstrations involving the
police department’s canine officers, Roxie and Nala.