From a Sept. 21 article in Nation's Cities Weekly, a publication of the National League of Cities:

Residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area make more than 1 million trips abroad each year and exchange $900 million into foreign currencies on those trips. These tourist and business travelers return to the U.S. with leftover foreign change and currency in pockets and purses. For each returning individual, the amount of foreign cash involved is small. When aggregated, however, leftover foreign currency retained by D.C. metropolitan area travelers has an estimated value of $900,000 annually.

Since most banks will not accept small (under $10) amounts of foreign currency for exchange, even from customers, the foreign money often sits in drawers for months or years. Eventually, much of it is simply thrown away.

A new nonprofit group in Washington, "Change for Good," is trying to put this money to use by soliciting leftover foreign currency from residents and businesses, exchanging it through special arrangements with a local bank, and using the proceeds to fund community projects.

Operating with start-up seed money from private contributors and in-kind contributions from marketing and graphic design specialists, the group has raised more than $4,000 since it began operations three months ago. The organization advertises regularly in community newspapers, has set up 19 of a planned 35 collection globes around town, and operates special collection booths at community festivals.

The group also is establishing in-house collection arrangements with corporations whose employees travel abroad frequently. . . .