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Panera employee restores faith in humanity

Mary and Gary Zenobia hug Dayanira Baldwin, a team lead at Panera Café, who saved their vacation when she found and returned the couple's lost bag.

MONROE, CT — A lost bag nearly ruined a Monroe couple’s vacation to Jamaica, before a Good Samaritan saved the day.

Gary Zenobia, who is a deputy registrar of voters in town, and his wife, Mary, planned a vacation to Jamaica with friends and the two couples left the Zenobias’ home at 4 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, heading to the airport with their luggage in the bed of Zenobia’s gray Nissan Frontier pickup truck.

When they arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport, employees hurriedly grabbed their bags at the curbside check in. Zenobia walked to the back of his truck and …

“I noticed the tailgate was open and had a bad feeling,” he recalled.

After a quick inventory, he learned his black satchel was missing. Among its contents were he and his wife’s boarding passes and passports, $1,000 cash, his asthma inhaler and his laptop computer.

“I never put money in my suitcase. I keep it in my pocket,” Zenobia said.

But his daughter, Megan, bought him a new passport holder, which had a compartment for cash, so he decided to use it for this trip.

“They were shocked,” Mary Zenobia said of their friends.

“They grabbed their luggage and stood in the corner wondering what they should do,” Gary Zenobia said.

The Zenobias ended up turning around and going back home, while their friends left without them. Gary said it was a quiet ride back, because no one said a word.

Once home, the Zenobias made phone calls to cancel the vacation package they had through Delta Vacations.

Gary called the town police department and Connecticut State Police asking them to look out for the satchel while out on patrol.

A Monroe police officer advised him to change passwords for their accounts and to cancel any credit cards that may have been in the bag, though, luckily, he did not pack credit cards in the satchel.

Nevertheless, since the bag was lost, Mary worried about identity theft.

“As soon as that happened I started praying to St. Anthony and everyone in my family was,” Mary said of the saint who helps to find lost objects.

Prayers answered

Panera Bread Café recently opened at Town Line Plaza, 205 Monroe Turnpike in Monroe.

That Sunday afternoon, Gary received a phone call from a woman saying she found his lost bag.

“The caller I.D. was a New Jersey number. I thought, ‘how did my bag end up in New Jersey?'” Gary recalled.

It turns out the caller was Dayanira Baldwin, a team lead at the new Panera Café on Monroe Turnpike. She had left her Shelton home that morning to cover the early shift, when she saw a black bag in the traffic circle at the intersection of routes 110 and 111.

“It must have been 4:40,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘what is that? Someone is missing a bag.'”

Baldwin said she did not even look inside the bag. Instead, she checked the name on the tag and called Gary Zenobia.

“Everyone was like, ‘I would never have picked it up.’ But if it were me, I would want someone to return it,” Baldwin said. “I would desperately want someone to call me and say, ‘I found your stuff.'”

“I’m a Christian and I always do the right thing no matter what,” she said. “I believe in karma and I believe in doing good.”

Gary asked Baldwin how he could get his bag and she told him she would drive it to their house after her shift.

“It just gives you that sense that there are good people in the world, who really care about others,” Gary said. “It just made me feel good. When she got out of the car, I gave her a big hug. I had to hug her and she let me. She said it was the right thing to do. It was just unbelievable.”

The Zenobias insisted on giving Baldwin a small cash reward, though she resisted several times, telling them she’s a Christian woman.

Aside from damage to the laptop from falling onto the road, everything was intact.

Back on track

Gary and Mary Zenobia on their vacation in Jamaica.

Gary called Delta Vacations to see if they could rebook their vacation.

He said the woman from Delta Vacations went above and beyond to help him, calling the resort to make sure their room was ready, checking on the reservations for their flights and making sure they received their boarding passes.

“I said to my wife, ‘I guess we were meant to go to Jamaica,'” Gary said. “Nothing would have been possible without that woman.”

The Zenobias flew to Jamaica and caught up with their friends the next day.

‘My hero’

On Saturday, Feb. 4, the Zenobias went to Panera Café to thank Dayanira again and to present her with a gift bag. The gift was a cosmetic bag with Jamaica written on it.

Mary and Gary Zenobia pose for a photo with Dayanira Baldwin, a team lead at Panera Café, who saved their vacation when she found and returned the couple’s lost bag.

Dayanira, who is training to be a manager, walked out from behind the counter to greet the couple who hugged their new friend. Gary showed her a cellphone photo of Mary excitedly greeting their friends upon their arrival in Jamaica.

“That’s amazing,” Baldwin said. “That is a story you will remember forever.”

“You are my hero,” Gary said. “You really, really are.”

Reflecting on going from feelings of angst over the lost bag and vacation to a happy ending, Mary said, “it was just amazing to know someone was so kind and honest to do that. My faith in humanity was raised.”

All respectful comments with the commenter’s first and last name are welcome.

6 Comments

  1. My sister is true at heart! She’s amazingly remarkable ❤️
    I am not one bit surprised about this because that’s who my sister is! She’s the realist person you’ll ever meet and I’m so proud she’s my sister!!!!!
    Love u Di!!

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