CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC7's Our Homes Matter Phone Bank connected Cook County homeowners with unclaimed money, just in time for the holiday season.
At last count, Wednesday's phone bank had received over 128,000 calls and connected homeowners with $2.5 million in property tax refunds and exemptions.
The phone lines were busy all day, so if you weren't able to get through, you can visit https://www.cookcountytreasurer.com/ and put in your address on the spot.
With increasing property taxes, high gas prices and grocery costs impacted by inflation, Cook County homeowner Carolyn Ryals says every dollar counts.
"In my car, I used to fill up for about 30 bucks. Now it's 50 bucks," Ryals said. "I'm retired. I'm on a fixed income and it's rough. It's rough to try to do the things you need to do with no extra money coming in."
Little did Ryals know, but extra money was about to come in thanks to ABC7's phone bank in partnership with Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas' office. The goal is to connect people with the $136 million in unclaimed property tax refunds and exemptions.
"Most people don't wake up in the morning and say, 'what's an exemption? Do I have an exemption?" Pappas said. "And we're teaching them that. With this phone bank, we're teaching them what they're entitled to."
Pappas said the phone bank comes at a time when people could really use some financial relief.
"The upset level and the financial devastation that people are feeling is pretty bad. So, this phone bank is about making people happy," Pappas said. "There's no better way to make someone happy than giving them a hug - or giving them money!"
Ryals called and learned that she was missing her homeowner and senior exemptions from the last three years. She knew something was coming in the mail, but couldn't believe the amount: $3,219!
"Oh my God! I did a praise dance, a happy dance!" Ryals said.
She said she gave 10% of the funds to her church and used the rest of the money on gifts for her grandkids and much needed repairs around the house.
"I had a pact with my mom when I got this place in 1977. She told me, 'don't you let this place go away. You keep it here for my grandchildren,'" Ryals said. "That $3,200 was a help to pay some bills and keep things up to date."
In total, ABC7's phone banks have now connected Cook County homeowners to more than $28.5 million.