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A mystery philanthropist known only as “Benny” has hidden more than 550 $100 bills in the Salem, Oregon, area over the past several years.
Capi Lynn, a columnist for the Salem-based Statesman Journal newspaper, tells the Washington Post over the weekend:
“As of today, he has given away more than $55,000, and that’s only what has been reported to me. I have a feeling Benny will be at it until his identity is revealed, or he can no longer do it for some reason.”
Lynn keeps track of when and where the $100 bills signed by a “Benny” are found. Her data are based on reports made through the Statesman Journal’s “Find a ‘Benny’?” online submission form.
Lynn has also been writing about the donations since 2013, when Cub Scouts received $900 worth of $100 bills that had been folded up and nonchalantly left on tables from which the Scouts were selling popcorn and candy.
Most recently, the Statesman Journal wrote about a Benny bill found by retired pediatric dentist Jeff Phillips, who discovered the folded $100 bill in a box of Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thin crackers. Phillips was home recovering from surgery, and was feeling down about the mass shooting in Orlando, which had just taken place.
Then, he found the bill. He told the newspaper:
“My attitude changed immediately. Does it cure cancer and terrorism? No. However, it reminds me that there are good people in the world that want to make a difference.”
Phillips wondered whether Benny purposely “ramps up” donations in the wake of tragedies.
Lynn nicknamed the mystery donor after his signature $100 bills — a denomination known in slang as “Benjamins.” She notes that while Benny has helped some local residents renew their faith in humanity and provided others with a financial boost, his most valuable gift “continues to be inspiring generosity in others.”
Most of the recent finders of Benny bills have paid it forward, Lynn writes, by donating the cash to local nonprofits.
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