They find them in cars. They find them in boxes of taco shells. They find them in tip jars, at lemonade stands, underneath hats at the market, and at the fair. Bethany Wallace, of Salem, Oregon, found hers on a routine shopping trip to Fred Meyer with her 4-year-old last month.
While she was checking out, she looked down in the cart and noticed a hundred-dollar bill. Benny had struck again. Benny, according to Salem’s Statesman-Journal, is the “mysterious and mythological philanthropist” who randomly drops one hundred dollar bills signed “Benny” through the Salem community (Benny presumably for Benjamin Franklin, whose image graces the bill). Bethany says that “things like this never happen to me,” and at first, she was “nervous. I felt guilty, like I should tell someone, but I remembered the news articles about it, so I put it straight in my wallet and finished purchasing my groceries. It felt surreal.” She says that Benny often leaves bills in baby items, so it could have been that, or that she also knows someone who was Benny’d while she was looking at candles with her back turned.
How awesome is this?
Benny is well-known in the Salem area. According the Statesman-Journal, the Benny phenomenon started over four years ago, and since then, he’s given away over $75,000. It all started with a report of a man leaving a folded $900 donation on a Cub Scout fundraising table in 2013. Writer Capi Lynn nicknamed him “Benny” in a story about the incident, and the name seems to have stuck — adopted as a moniker by both the community and the man himself. One of Benny’s friends explains that he does it “because he has a big heart.”
The world needs more people like Benny. Not because he has wealth and he’s willing to share it, but because he’s got a genuinely good heart and a giving spirit.
Bethany Wallace is right about people finding their Bennys in baby items. Benny seems to have a soft spot for parents. In the Facebook comments on an article about Benny, Dianna Anderson says, “Really helped me out the time I found a bill in my son’s box of pampers. Babies are expensive. Every dollar helps while on a single income.”
It also happened to Jackie Case: “I’ve received a ‘Benny’ in my wipes container once. If you’re reading this Benny, thank you!! Such a great man!” Jenni Heckman Rusow found a Benny in a LeapPad she bought at Fred Meyer, and Misty Fox says her 1-year-old recently got Bennied: “We bought her a pair of pj’s at the south salem Walmart and hung them for a later date. Didn’t realize until a few wks later when she became ill in the middle of the night, so we grabbed the new pj’s to put on her and out fell a Benny. At the time she was about to have a biopsy surgery, so it was a greatly appreciated act of kindness and love.”
Lately, though, Benny’s been throwing in a gift with his trademark bill: He puts it in a coin purse. The Statesman-Journal says, “All have been made of canvas with colorful floral prints and metal clasps” and have been found all over town. Jerry Leon-Guerrero says in a Facebook post, “Just last week, after doing laundry at the laundry mat. I go to my car and sitting on the front seat is a flowered change purse. I opened it up and $100 Benny bill inside. I’m glad I left my car unlocked. LOL. Thanks Benny.” Benny hit “six neighbors in a one-block stretch of a northeast Salem” with his purses. Jaime Mogle had one tossed in his yard. Benny also left three purses balanced on top of apartment unit doorknobs, where one was found by Rosario Castro, age 7. She told her friend, 10-year-old Xitlaly Pacheco, who also found one.
Because of all Benny’s good deeds, his inner circle worries, the Statesman-Journal says, “about his identity being revealed.” Everyone who’s caught him in the act has sworn to protect his identity, and the Statesman-Journal has been assured that if he’s outed, his “generosity will come to an end.” On the Facebook post of one of the articles about Benny, Jannette Garcia remains one of the faithful. “I know who he is but will never tell…He is a sweet man and may the lord continue to bless him daily!”
Kerrie Russell says, “I think I know who it is but I won’t write it here.” Holly Alverez agrees with her: “Good man u are. I’ve seen him but won’t reveal his identity either.” And Outon Natiea posts: “I know who benny looks like and I am forever grateful to have spoken to him while he ordered food and dropped money in our tip jar. I was struggling that month for kids clothes for the winter and with the money he gave us I went and bought clothes for my kids. I will never forget his face. I will respect him and not go into detail on what he looks like. But he is one handsome fella!”
Handsome face or not, we know he’s got one handsome heart. The internet is full of Benny stories, almost every one followed by a thank-you, a message of gratitude, or a heart. Bethany’s one lucky woman to find a hundred dollars on the bottom of her shopping cart. So are all the other beneficiaries. But so is Salem, Oregon — gifted not only with a man committed to charity and good work, but also with a citizenry so zealous in protecting him. What lucky people. And what a lucky town.