The money - a total of $1,100 - belonged to 83-year-old Mary Olive Corbiere, who was banking on it to buy Christmas presents and lost it after a freak accident.
Corbiere had left a drugstore Tuesday and was putting her bags in her car when a wind gust pushed her shopping cart - still containing her purse and cane - into the back of a nearby delivery truck.
The cart somehow became stuck in a rear wheel well before the truck pulled away and disappeared into traffic.
"Everything was normal, then I turned around and the cart had taken off," said Corbiere, a retired English teacher and nurse.
The cart was dragged for blocks along one of the town's busiest thoroughfares as the driver, oblivious to what had occurred, headed to the next delivery.
Witnesses told police that when the purse finally burst open, strangers stopped and grabbed the fluttering currency, which Corbiere had withdrawn for holiday shopping and bills.
Officers found Corbiere's tattered checkbook and cane - but little cash. They are urging people not to be Grinches and return any of the money they might have found.
"We're hoping people will do the right thing," police Sgt. Charles Dodge said.
Corbiere, though, isn't waiting around for the money's return. She headed to the bank Wednesday to get a new checkbook and make another withdrawal.
She didn't even bother to retrieve the battered purse from police.
"That's no use to me now," she said. "What I really needed badly is my cane, and I am lucky I did get that back."