Some 1,284 people in New York state are getting some good news this holiday season—courtesy of two complete strangers. Ithaca residents Judith Jones, 80, and Carolyn Kenyon, 70, raised $12,500 over the summer and gave it to the RIP Medical Debt charity, which used it to forgive an amazing $1.5 million in medical debt, reports the New York Times. The charity—started in 2014 by former debt collection execs Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton—was able to buy up the overdue debt for less than a penny on the dollar, which is something more typically done by debt collectors who then hound the debtors for the money. The people whose debt was bought up will receive a slim yellow envelope with a letter telling them their debt has been forgiven.
Jones and Kenyon are campaigners for universal health coverage and while fundraising for the debt forgiveness fund, they explained how medical debt can wreck lives and stressed that it was part of a bigger problem caused by health care costs, Jezebel reports. Antico says he and Ashton founded the charity after realizing the impact medical debt had on so many lives. "I like doing this much more than I liked doing collecting," he tells the Times. "The random act of kindness is kind of a cool thing." As for how they're doing, they say they've been able to erase $434 million in past-due medical debt so far ... though America's total tab is $750 billion. (John Oliver gleefully forgave $15 million in medical debt on his show in 2016.)