Philadelphia woman collects lost coins for a good cause

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- On the issue of medical debt, Lisa Phillips has more than just her two cents to contribute.

"I've spent most of my life here in Philadelphia," she said. "And it never ceases to amaze me how much change there is in the city, no pun intended."

One of the things that changed during the last year was the unexpected expenses incurred by patients battling COVID-19 in the hospital. This made Phillips' daily hobby that much more important.

"I get up every morning very early and I walk my dogs and we do about four to five miles," she said. "Just from keeping an eye on the ground, I just find a lot of money."

Phillips started a collection of coins ranging from pennies to quarters and the occasional dollar bill. In 2019, she started logging her discoveries on the Instagram account, @PhilaStreetFinds, and donating every cent to RIP Medical Debt. The non-profit purchases bundles of debt and eradicates it without fines or taxes imposed on donors or recipients. This unique system allows them to relieve one dollar of debt for every penny donated.

"It makes it much more gratifying to stoop down and pick up a penny, dirty as it might be, because I know that it's going to go to a cause that is actually going to be worth one dollar every time I donate a penny," said Phillips.

Last year, she was able to donate $423.82 simply by collecting abandoned money from the city streets.

"It can be in a flower bed, it can be around a tree, by the parking kiosks," Phillips explained.

Today, Phillips discovered what she calls a "sprinkling," or a cluster of coins dumped in one location. In this case, there were 10 pennies scattered beneath a park bench. She has also collected foreign money from places like Japan, Guyana, and Barbados.

She hopes that her mission will bring awareness to the value of small coins and encourage people to donate to a good cause.

"Change, for a lot of people, feels as if it's not worth anything," she said. "But they don't understand that it all adds up."

To learn more about Phillips' mission, visit her Instagram page, @PhilaStreetFinds.

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