STANFORD — Last Thursday morning, Lincoln County resident Susan Cherry got an unexpected phone call from Judge-Executive Jim Adams.
Adams was calling to let Cherry know she was one of probably thousands of Lincoln County residents who have unclaimed property that's being held by the state until it's claimed.
It turned out there was unclaimed property listed in Cherry's grandmother's name that she is an heir to.
Cherry was one of around 125 people who visited the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Office Jan. 24 during a visit by the state treasurer's office.
State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach coordinated with local officials to host a "Treasure Finders" operation, where local Lincoln County residents with knowledge of area families teamed up to locate people in the county with unclaimed properties.
The treasurer's office is in charge of holding onto unclaimed properties until they’re claimed by their rightful owners — anything from real estate to bank accounts to stamp collections.
Hollenbach has estimated his office is holding onto around $616,000 worth of unclaimed properties owned by as many as 3,000 different Lincoln County residents.
Treasury officials helped 86 of the people who checked on claims Jan. 24 to get started on the right paperwork to reclaim their properties.
Cherry said her family had been "vaguely" aware that there was a property out there owned by her now deceased grandmother and she's grateful the Treasure Finders program stopped in Lincoln.
"It's nice to know. We just need to put closure to it," she said. "We were just excited. It was nice that they were here in Lincoln County, that we could come and meet them and take care of it. …If not, it would have been a lot of phone calls I guess trying to get the right forms."
About a dozen volunteers were busy digging through lists of names at around 11 a.m. the day of the Treasure Finders operation.
Judge-Executive Adams, who was reviewing names with his mother, Tina, and Lincoln resident Harold Upton, said the list provided by Hollenbach's office only displayed names for people with claims of $50 or more.
The actual amount of a claim is never divulged by the treasury except to someone who proves they have a rightful claim to the property.
Lincoln resident Peggy Jo Board stopped by after receiving a call to check on an unclaimed property listed in her deceased brother's name.
"I was just surprised to get the call. I didn't know anything about it," said Board, who was an executor of her brother's estate. "It just kind of shocked me that he had any unclaimed money because we thought we got it all settled when he died."
Board said the claim amount wound up being too small for her to bother pursuing it.
Other Lincoln County residents found themselves at the receiving end of considerably larger windfalls — Hollenbach noted at least one Lincoln County resident had unclaimed property or properties worth "tens of thousands."
Hollenbach said the total amount of money and property returned to Lincoln County residents thanks to the Treasure Finders program will be difficult to estimate because there are "ripple effects" stretching out months from the original phone-bank day, as other people hear about their friends or family members receiving claims and then decide to look into any claims they might have.
In some other counties where Hollenbach has brought the Treasure Finders program, more than 50 percent of the money being held was eventually returned.
Hollenbach said his office has plans to work with Adams' office and get someone in Lincoln County trained to navigate the treasury's database and continue helping local residents find their unclaimed properties.
"We don't want this to be a one-hit wonder, where we come down, make a splash, go away and you all don't get any hands-on Lincoln County service from treasury after that," Hollenbach said.