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When Vernon Wilson wanted to help a local charity, he didn't write a check or hand over stocks and bonds, he gave a gleaming pile of 1,600 diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and other jewels.

The jeweler had been setting aside his favorite stones for three decades to help fund his retirement. When he heard the local branch of Habitat for Humanity needed help, he found a better use for his treasured gems.

Valued at $182,000, the gift dazzled charity workers.

"To get something like this is totally out of the blue," said Starr Mayer, executive director of Peninsula Habitat for Humanity.

Wilson, who cannot pitch in physically to help build homes for needy families because of injuries suffered in an auto accident, welcomed the chance to help financially.

"I have gotten more satisfaction out of working with the people at Habitat than I ever did with pulling out the gems and admiring them and dreaming what I could do with them," Wilson said.

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