William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Fri, 19 Aug 2005 08:07:15 -0400


Friday, August 19, 2005

Homeless Woman Returns Cash-Laden Purse

By Dana Willhoit
The Ledger

LAKELAND -- When Polk County sheriff's Deputy Sandy Scherer lost a bag with
her personal organizer, $800 in cash and two paychecks in it Monday, she
didn't have a lot of hope.

After 16 years in law enforcement, she'd become a little cynical.

But just in case, she rushed back to the parking lot in front of Lakeland's
Polk Government Center on Parker Street. It was where she had parked
earlier, accidentally leaving her bag on the hood of her car.

She was surprised to find someone turned it in at the front desk of Polk
Works. Not a cent was missing.

But when she managed to get in contact with 24-year-old Canesha Blackman,
the woman who turned in the bag, and asked to come meet her so she could
thank her personally, she was even more surprised.

Blackman was staying at the Salvation Army shelter with her five children.
"It was really inspiring to me," Scherer said. "It restored my faith in

Blackman was surprised that anyone would be surprised.

"If I lost my bag, I would want someone to give it back to me," she shrugged
on Monday night, as her children ate dinner at the shelter.

Yes, she sure could use the money. She can stay at the shelter only 14 days.
She hasn't seen her husband since March, and he doesn't give her a dime, she

But she couldn't take someone's money, she said. She wouldn't want it done
to her. "I had someone trick me out of $100 once, and it felt terrible," she

When she found the bag, she didn't even open it -- she just carried it into
the Polk Works building and turned it in. She was surprised when the deputy
contacted her to thank her, and was even more surprised when Deputy Scherer
came to the shelter to meet her. "I didn't know if she'd want to come here
because some people are like that," she said.

But right now, Blackman's mind is more on how she's going to find a place to
stay once her 14 days at the shelter are up. She moved to Lakeland from
Tampa last September because her marriage wasn't working, she said. She had
a job at a hotel, which she lost because her day-care center wasn't open on
New Year's Day. She gave birth to her son Anthony, now 5 months old, and
returned to work six weeks later. Then she got arrested on a burglary
warrant from 1998.

"It was right after my eighteenth birthday. It was a stupid thing to do, I
don't know why I did it. I regret it now," she said.

Seven years later, it cost Blackman her job and her apartment.

Now she's back at the shelter, working at Checkers, and has applied for a
second job at Denny's.

Sitting on a bench in the shelter cafeteria, watching her daughters chase
each other around the tables, she dreams of an apartment and enough
full-time work to support her family.

"That's all I really need. I don't need a car. I can take the bus all day
long," she said.

And some day, if she's really, really lucky, she'd like to make it big as an
R&B singer.

"I know it'll be hard, but that's really all I want to do," she said. "But I
know that to support my family, I've got to work."

She may not be a star yet, but right here in Polk County, she's got one of
her biggest fans in Sandy Scherer.

Dana Willhoit can be reached at dana.willhoit@theledger.com or 863-802-7550.