Anonymous Bitcoin dealer gives sizable donations to two Chattanooga nonprofit organizations

Anonymous Bitcoin dealer gives sizable donations to two Chattanooga nonprofit organizations

February 24th, 2018 by Mark Pace in Local Regional News

Green Steps director Alyssa Grizenko, right, and her husband Chris Sullivan install a Green Steps waste box at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Houston Street on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Green Steps is one of several area nonprofits that have received donations from an anonymous bitcoin donor known as Pine.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

A couple of local outdoor nonprofit organizations have received sizable donations from an anonymous philanthropist giving away millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin to organizations around the world.

Two months ago, the donor, who goes by the name "Pine," posted a message to online forum Reddit letting users know he was giving 5,057 Bitcoin — worth roughly $86 million at the time — to charitable causes.

The Tennessee River Gorge Trust and Green Steps in Chattanooga, an organization fighting litter, was among those selected. The trust converted its cryptocurrency into $250,000, while Green Steps received six Bitcoin, worth about $15,000 each.

"You wish for altruism, but you don't always see it," said Rick Huffines, executive director of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. "This person gave for the better of the community, and they did it without asking for anything. No [follow-up] report was even required."

There was a considerable learning curve for the groups receiving the donations.

Neither had a full understanding of how to receive Bitcoin or what they needed to do to use it. The groups communicated with Pine through email, and the donor walked them through the process.

"It was kind, simple and quick [communication with the donor]," Huffines said. "Everything was quick. It happened very fast. We had to kick into gear. How do you accept Bitcoin? We didn't understand that kind of stuff."

Pine informed the groups they needed to set up a Bitcoin Wallet and recommended several ways to do that. The trust set up an account on BitPay, which is similar to PayPal.

The groups filled in an online form explaining what they were and what they did in the community. There were no stipulations on how to use the money.

Within several weeks, the nonprofit groups received the Bitcoin in their online wallets.

"Oh my gosh, it was exhilarating," Green Steps founder Alyssa Grizenko said. "I thought, 'Wow, that's life-changing.' It was an amazing moment."

The nonprofit organization puts trash stations at popular outdoor spots in the area and then rewards volunteers for picking up litter. The stations cost $250 each. Participants receive three points for each bag of collected litter and one point for each mile walked. The person receives a prize, ranging from Clumpies ice cream to a Four Bridges Outfitters gift card, for every 10 points they earn.

Green Steps will use Pine's donation to add litter stations, buy materials for community cleanup events, and buy prizes.

The trust will use the money to help expand its after-school program at Dalewood Middle School. The money also will help with water quality monitoring, current studies, and future land acquisition, officials said.

Pine has been careful to hide his identity and hasn't offered much information about the project, dubbed the "Pineapple Fund." But in a message shared with the Times Free Press, Pine said: "I'm particularly impressed about how [the trust] isn't just about buying and protecting land, but also undertaking vital efforts to measure the environment and preserve the ecosystem."

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6361. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook @ChattanoogaOutdoors.