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About 20 supermarket customers were pleasantly surprised Monday afternoon when they went to check out. After their items were scanned and bagged, cashiers told them their groceries had already been paid for. The philanthropists? None other than Yan Budman and Jason Buzi, better known as the guys behind Hidden Cash.
Together, they covered $1000 worth of groceries at the Bronx Foodtown. "A lot of people really appreciated it," Budman told TODAY.com. "People on Twitter had been asking us to come to the Bronx, so we wanted to do it there."
The two men have been good friends for over 20 years and share a penchant for giving back to the community and getting people together. The idea of Hidden Cash, which rose to fame back in May, first came to them while driving home one night in their hometown of San Francisco.
They noticed a homeless man trying to cross the street and Buzi stopped to give him money, but ended up scaring him away instead.
"I remember him saying, 'There's got to be a better way to do this,'" Budman recalled. "And I'm like, 'What, like we would hide cash?'"
The idea stuck. The two started an anonymous Twitter account and caused a storm on social media when they started tweeting clues about where they had hidden the cash-filled envelopes (ranging from $60 to $140).
And the movement is going strong. "It actually took off beyond anything we expected it to," Budman said. "We didn't even expect to keep it going for this long, but the response from people motivated us to keep it going."
Just this weekend, Hidden Cash hit Coney Island and Brighton beaches in Brooklyn, burying 72 Pez dispensers filled with money in the sand.
A special Superman dispenser contained a special prize: Two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the U.S., given away with the purpose of connecting the finder to loved ones they might not otherwise get to see. The dispenser was found by a little boy, whose mother says they will probably use it to travel to Arizona.
Though many people have told the pair that their work has inspired them, "It's really them who are inspiring us to do what we're doing," he said.
To date, Hidden Cash has received hundreds of Tweets from cash recipients who've paid it forward.
"They contribute to homeless people, or buy coffees or ice cream for the amount they found to strangers in line," Budman said. "That's really what we're all about. Getting people together and inspiring them to give back, whether it's by giving your time or giving financially."
A 14-year-old girl who found an envelope sent the money to her sick grandmother in Mexico. She was so inspired by the movement that she took it one step further and also went to Tijuana to deliver groceries to people in need there.
"Even people who don’t find the money, it's inspiring to hear the ways that the movement has impacted the people following the project on social media," Budman said. "They say it's inspired them to do things like volunteer work."
As the director of marketing for the crowd-funding website Indiegogo, Budman understands how small donations can have big effects.
“I've always been drawn to ways that people coming together can make an impact,” he said.