Maria Rivera might want to consider a second career as an appraiser.
When the longtime product manager at the Goodwill Donation Center in Manassas, Va., spotted a painting that stood out amid the other donated goods last month, she pulled it aside and sent it to the nonprofit's e-commerce team in Washington, D.C., which researched the painting and found it was a work of Giovanni Battista Torriglia, a late-19th century Italian painter.
Not knowing more about the specific painting, Goodwill put it up for sale on ShopGoodwill.com, it's own version of eBay, and watched in amazement at what happened next.
"We saw the bids just begin to rise and then begin to rise substantially," Brendan Hurley, chief marketing officer for Goodwill of Greater Washington, told ABCNews.com. "At that point we became concerned because we wanted to make sure it was an authentic painting."
Goodwill pulled the item from the website while it had it professionally appraised. It then found out that the treasure was indeed authentic and worth about $12,000.
The painting depicts a woman holding a teacup and saucer, ordinary objects that, according to art biographers, the artist was well known for painting. The painting is now back on the auction block, and all proceeds from its sale will go to the Goodwill's Washington chapter's job-training program for people with disabilities.
"That's a tremendous amount of money by any standards," said Hurley. "We're extremely grateful to whoever donated it to us, and I hope whoever donated it understands the positive impact that's going to have on our community."
No one has stepped forward so far to claim the treasure as its own.
The only calls to the Goodwill store in Manassas, where Rivera first saw the painting, come from people wanting Rivera's sharp eye to appraise artwork and other items collecting dust in their own homes, Hurley said.
"She thinks it's amusing," Hurley said. "We are very proud of Maria. She is a great employee. She always has been."