Gerry McDermott was looking on Craigslist for a free guinea pig when he saw a surprising message: Free money, hidden on the Green, available now.
This is crazy, he thought. Not too crazy to check out.
He got into his car and headed downtown. Lo and behold, McDermott (pictured above) found an envelope of cash waiting for him at the base of a tree on the Green Sunday—and became the first New Haven beneficiary of an anonymous cash giveaway.
The giveaway began on Sunday, when a Twitter user known as New Heaven posted a message: “Attn: New Haven. FREE cash will be placed in envelopes around the city this summer.”
Contacted by email, New Heaven said he or she is inspired by a Twitter user known as Hidden Cash, who last month started hiding free money in envelopes in the San Francisco area. Hidden Cash, who gives away up to $200 at a time, has started a phenomenon in California. The account recently drew droves of people to a Los Angeles beach after Hidden Cash announced containers of cash were hidden in the sand.
“@HiddenCash seemed to be spreading tons of good vibes across California, inspiring random acts of kindness all over the place,” New Heaven stated, via email. “Couldn’t help but bring the excitement Eastward.”
The excitement started on Sunday, when New Heaven posted a photo showing an envelope tucked into a tree on the Green. “Let the games begin!” he or she tweeted.
New Heaven also posted the photo on Craigslist, which is where McDermott found it.
McDermott, a 38-year-old project coordinator at the Connecticut Water Company, spotted it as he was scanning Craigslist looking for a free guinea pig for his 4-year-old daughter.
McDermott knew about the Hidden Cash craze in California. “If I didn’t, I probably would have ignored the posting.”
Having lived in New Haven for 15 years previously, McDermott said, he could tell exactly where the envelope was from New Heaven’s photo. “I recognized the location. I could see the fountain.” He jumped in his car and drove to the Green from his home in North Branford, “out of curiosity.”
Just visible behind a piece of bark at the base of a large tree on Temple Street, McDermott found an envelope. “If you find this, tweet @NewHeavenCT,” the envelope said. “I [heart] NH.”
Inside was $32. McDermott said he’ll probably use the money to buy some gas for his Hyundai.
“I think it’s kind of neat. I think it’s fun,” McDermott said. “I’d be curious to find out who has the extra money to do things like this. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled now more than I was before.”
New Heaven’s identity remains a secret, just like Hidden Cash’s. Contacted by email, New Heaven declined to reveal him or herself.
The mystery donor did, however, answer a few questions by email.
Q: Why are you giving away money?
A: “To spread love/kindness/hope/good-will towards mankind. Hopefully this is a an interactive and fun experience! (also winter was a mother bear this year, it’d be nice to help people get outside to soak up some cosmic rays)”
Q: How much money will you give away?
A: “No exact plan- hoping the whole project evolves organically.”
Q: How long will the giveaway last?
A: “At least for the summer- but who knows! “
Q: Who are you?
A: “It’s a secret.”
Q: How do you have the means to give away money?
A: “Try to be responsible with $$ so there is enough to help others!”
Q: How can people find out about the next cash drop?
A: “Twitter will probably be the primary platform (again, no definite plans). Craigslist seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling, but the posts keep getting flagged for removal. Perhaps people thought it was #TooGoodToBeTrue.”
Q: Why do you [heart] New Haven?
A: “New Haven is a wonderful place, full of character/beauty/positivity/intrigue. This fact is often overlooked. ... Hopefully, this can be a fun way for people to get outside, build a sense of community, get some stone cold cash, and #PayItForward.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, New Heaven had not tweeted about another cash prize. The latest tweet on the account, which had 63 followers:
Next drop will be today if we can get to 100 followers!— New Heaven (@NewHeavenCT) June 3, 2014