Anne-Claire Cleaver, a local singer-songwriter, was once one of more than 100 million Americans struggling with medical debt.
This Saturday, she gave back to the community through music and celebration at the RIP Medical Debt Festival, organized by Jubilee Baptist Church with the goal of raising money to relieve medical debt in Orange and Durham counties.
The church collected donations for the organization RIP Medical Debt. The concept for the nonprofit came from debt buyers, who purchase medical debt in bulk for a lower cost and are reimbursed for that debt at full price by patients.
“The founders of the organization realized in 2014 that, if instead you took a philanthropic lens, and you didn't want to make a profit, but instead used donated dollars to purchase this debt, you can in fact, sort of flip the script and purchase debts very inexpensively,” Daniel Lempert, the vice president of communications at RIP Medical Debt, said.
Each dollar donated to the organization will relieve approximately $100 of debt for someone in the medical system, according to RIP Medical Debt’s website.
The organization targets their efforts toward people who are least able to pay, Lempert said.
The donations from Saturday's festival will go to people in local hospitals. The church raised around $6,000 at the event and hopes to raise $45,000 by the end of the year through other events.
The church had provided medical debt grants in the past but never hosted an event this large, Jubilee Baptist Church Co-pastor Heather Folliard said. More than 100 people were in attendance.
“We wanted to celebrate that we know we're going to be paying off a good chunk of debt,” Kevin Georgas, one of the co-pastors of the church, said. “That's a really joyful thing that's worth celebrating.”