Pennies add up to currency of hope

Change Making Change donations can be made at Coinstar machines like this one in the north end QFC. - Megan Managan/Staff Photo
Change Making Change donations can be made at Coinstar machines like this one in the north end QFC.
— image credit: Megan Managan/Staff Photo

Most of us have a jar at home, filled with pocket change that we take for granted. Even kids have a piggy bank filled with change. So what if all those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters could go to use for a better cause?

That was the question Islander Rich Stillman asked himself when he started putting together a 501©3 charitable organization called Change Making Change, which officially launched Dec. 13.

Stillman was the president of Coinstar, those handy kiosks where you can dump your change and get paper bills back, from August 1999 to May of 2005. He said when he joined Coinstar the company had about $1,000,000 in annual revenue. When he left, the revenue approached $500,000,000.

Now, when you deposit your change into a Coinstar machine, you can elect to donate that change to charities that are a part of Coinstar’s Coins that Count, or to Change Making Change charities which primarily benefit children.

“My mission is to encourage kids and young adults, 12-17, to give back on a regular basis,” Stillman said.

He said for adults there are more opportunities to give to big causes once or twice a year, but kids don’t have credit cards to do so. In his experience at Coinstar he said he’s seen over $1 billion out of circulation.

“Change making Change is for smaller donors,” Stillman said. “I’m trying to harness the passion of these young adults. The potential is enormous.”

He said there are 17,000 Coinstar kiosks throughout the U.S., and most likely one is within five miles of your home.

“Change Making Change” supports three charities that have an effect on kids. The first is First Book, a U.S. non-profit that provides new books to children in need. Per the First Book Web site, to date, First Book has distributed more than 85 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada.

Next is the International Justice Mission, an organization that rescues young girls from slavery, sexual exploitation and assault.

“IJM’s justice professionals work in their communities in 13 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to secure tangible and sustainable protection of national laws through local court system,” its website states.

The final charity is Chikumbuso, helping widows and children left behind by AIDS victims.

Stillman said a little bit of money goes a long way. He said Change Making Change turns found money into something tangible for less fortunate children.

“Our motto is kids giving to kids,” he said.

Stillman said Change Making Change has been live on Coinstar since September, but they are just now officially launching.

“The results have been pretty exciting,” he said. “We’ve raised over $11,000 in the last 12 weeks, from more than 40 states.”

He said the first $2,000 to First Books provided 700 books to kids, and they are just getting started.

Stillman and his wife, Julie Stillman, have lived on Mercer Island for 16 years. Their two daughters are both graduates of Mercer Island High School. Stillman is the COO of the Upswing Group, LLC, a management consulting firm.

“I’m very hopeful about the future and the opportunity for kids to get involved,” he said.

Learn more

To learn more about the project and how to donate, visit to learn more.


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates