Illinois treasurer returns nearly $20K woman left to local animal shelter

She passed away more than a decade ago, but on Tuesday, an animal lover's generous donation finally found its way to a suburban shelter.

It happened through the state treasurer's unclaimed property program.

Three-hundred cats and another 150 canine neighbors are the average populations at Orphans of the Storm in Riverwoods, a no-kill shelter that takes in stray and abandoned animals from around the country.

The animals got a surprise visit from Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs, who arrived with a very big check.

“This is one of the most exciting parts of my job, we returned nearly $19,000 to Orphans of the Storm shelter,” said Frerichs. 

The money is from a life insurance policy for a woman named Gladys O'Brien, who died in 2006 at the age of 83. The funds for these animals went unclaimed for the last 13 years.

“A large part of the money we've brought in was from an insurance policy that this shelter was not aware they were the recipients of,” said Frerichs. “Gladys O'Brien, in 2006, named it as a beneficiary of her policy.”

The shelter says it's going to use the money to modernize its cat room, giving the kitties more vertical space, and to enhance enrichment programs for dogs.

“I was contacted by a state representative and they told us they had some money for Orphans of the Storm! It's almost $19,000. Very exciting!” said Barbara Gucwa, Orphans of the Storm shelter.

The treasurer's office says right now it has nearly $3 billion in unclaimed property and cash that belongs to business, non-profits, and individuals.

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