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One hundred $100 bills to 100 strangers for 100 days

Project 100.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: What would you do if somebody came up to you on the street and handed you $100 bill? If you live in the Detroit area, this is not a purely hypothetical question.

There is a group handing out hundreds to 100 people -- randomly selected -- and this will go on for a 100 days. The campaign, appropriately, is called Project 100. It's backed by a local credit union and a marketer named Greg Wohler helped come up with the idea. He's with the Edge Creative Group near Detroit.

Welcome.

Greg Wohler: Thank you very much.

Radke: You started this project last year, and obviously, it's been good publicity for the credit union sponsoring you. But beyond that, why this project? Why did you want to hand out money?

Wohler: In the Detroit market, which is where this began, things have been pretty difficult. There's a lot of people losing jobs. So the credit union came to us and they wanted us to try and come up with a way that they can give back to their members. So, what we did was we came up with an idea where we could touch a small number of people and hopefully those people could touch a far greater number of people and help impact the general situation here locally by getting more people interested in giving within their local communities.

Radke: In that moment, how do people react when you hand them $100?

Wohler: It's an amazing feeling to see people and see how they react. And we've had people break down in tears. We had one woman last summer who told us that that day they were going to shut her gas off, and she was going use this money to make sure that it's not shut off and pay some of the bill. So, we've had people in shock...

Radke: I hate to say it, but I think I might be suspicious. I think that might be my reaction, "counterfeit!"

Wohler: It's funny, we've had people who've actually turned it down.

Radke: That was going a little farther than I was. I just figured I'd have a useless piece of paper, but there are people who just say, "I don't want any part of this?

Wohler: Oh yeah, we've had people who literally will not accept the money and walk away. You know, I mean, I guess I understand that. In working with financial intuitions like we do, we see all sorts of scams all the time. So I could understand how people would be skeptical. Most people are skeptical at least a little bit, but then when they hear the story and they understand what's going on, I think they start to warm up to it. And we walk away, no strings attached, and that's it.

Radke: And do you make 'em tell you what they're going to do with it?

Wohler: No. You know what, what we found is that most people are pretty shocked and don't really know immediately what they're going to do with it. But we give them some contact information to go to the website, and there's an area where they can share their stories. Quite often, they don't know right off the bat. It usually takes them maybe a few days to figure out exactly what they're going to do.

Radke: Tell me one story that really stands out to you.

Wohler: We were just in a neighborhood, and we really didn't see anybody out walking around. So we decided to go up and just knock on a few doors. And we knocked on this gentleman's door, and he came to the front. Presented him with $100 and his response was "You know what, this is great. I love it. It's fantastic. But I don't particularly need the $100 right now. But I do know someone who does. Would you come with me?" And the whole team of us walked across the street to an elderly gentleman's house. This gentleman just got done having surgery and that he was having money problems. And he knocked on the door, and when the guy came to the door, he literally handed him a $100 bill, and said, "This is what these people gave to me, and I wanna give it to you."

I can just tell you that's one story of many stories just like that. It's amazing how many people have been touched by this.

Radke: Greg Wohler is with the marketing company Edge Creative Group near Detroit. And he's working on the Project 100 campaign to give away a hundred $100s to random people in the Detroit area. Greg, thank you so much.

Wohler: Thank you.

Radke: It's not just Detroit feeling the love. Project 100 has already spread to other credit unions
in Michigan, California and Texas. So if someone walks up to you waving $100 bill, now you know what to do.

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