A few weeks ago, Anne Gabrys and her toddler were walking around their south Minneapolis neighborhood when they spotted a button-covered jean jacket in the alley. Thinking it must be important to someone, Gabrys picked it up.

Her husband, Alex Holzinger, posted a picture on their Corcoran Neighborhood Facebook group. Then someone else reposted it on the Twin Cities Geeks Facebook group, a forum for sourcing Renaissance-themed wedding tips or discussing the forthcoming musical adaptation of Oregon Trail, where it was shared more than 250 times.

Soon the lost jacket was all over Twitter and Reddit, racking up thousands of comments, upvotes and likes, giving Holzinger "a small taste of internet fame," he recalled with a laugh.

Internet sleuths scoured for clues. The button collection, in a sense, told the story of a life: a hockey-playing Girl Scout who was a fan of Mr. Rogers and national parks; an advocate for mental-health care who couldn't resist a Garfield joke.

Soon, someone recognized the jacket as one stolen from Julietta Borman's car in mid-September. Borman had been despondent over losing the 300-plus buttons she'd spent more than a decade collecting.

"It wasn't about the jacket itself," Borman said. "It was about the buttons and the memories about the people who had given them to me."

After picking up the jacket from Gabrys and Holzinger, who live just a mile away, Borman was thrilled to be reunited with her treasured possession. "I just walked around my house with it on," she said. "I've been so excited to have it back."

Borman was impressed by the sleuths' efforts to deduce her identity. Cross-referencing a pin from a hockey tournament win with the Girl Scout awards she'd achieved, they estimated she was between the ages of 27 and 29. In fact, she's 28.

But no one could have guessed the sentimental value of the jacket's most prized mementos. A Valley of Fire pin represented the place where Borman's husband first told her he loved her. The one from Bent Paddle Brewing commemorated the spot they'd toasted their engagement.

The jacket wasn't just a piece of clothing, but a reflection of Borman's transformation from a shy high schooler who was afraid to stand out to a young adult comfortable putting her true self out there. "When I got to college, I started to wear it because I was like, 'It's cool and unique and different and that's OK,' " she said.

For both families, the jacket's return boosted their faith in the collective. "There's a lot more of that stuff going on," Gabrys said of property crimes. "You do keep your eyes open because you try to look out for each other."

"A lot of bad things happen on the internet," Borman acknowledged. "And this is one of the cooler things that I've seen seeing happening on the internet: People really coming together to help some random stranger."