Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let the Donating Begin!

Note: My computer is doing funky things; sorry for the weird formatting: If you've been following my Couponing for Charity weekly posts, you know I've been gathering FREE deals (mainly hygiene products) to donate to deserving organizations. Our MOMS Club chapter has chosen four local organizations over the course of a year to be recipients of our crafty couponing skills. Every three months, a different one will benefit. I've felt a bit like a squirrel--hunting, gathering, and storing my precious finds--but it was finally time to relinquish my gems to our first deserving group: a non-profit, interfaith agency serving the poor and homeless of Knoxville called the Volunteer Ministry Center.

This from their website: "The Volunteer Ministry Center helps people find their way out of homelessness by offering “tough love” programs that work. It’s not enough to meet the basic needs of food and shelter. Real progress means that people face their problems and overcome them. It means that they set goals and achieve them – and in a timely manner. It means that they are held accountable. The work of The Volunteer Ministry Center has one purpose – to help our clients achieve housing and a higher level of self-sufficiency so that they are no longer homeless."

I actually got involved with the VMC through my church, The Church of the Good Samarita, an Episcopal church in the Cedar Bluff region.There's a group of 10-15 female parishioners who attend a monthly "ladies night in" at the VMC. It's a chance to share some life skills, but more importantly, an opportunity to build relationships with women struggling to overcome homelessness. They seek to give them a comfortable bridge to the community.

So when I began my Couponing for Charity mission, this group was the first to come to mind. I was excited that not only was this a chance to "give them fish" but to "teach them to fish." Over the weekend, I began pouring out some of the knowledge I'd gained the past nine months and tips for how to get the great deals at Walgreen's and CVS in a hand-out. I quickly filled 4 1/2 pages. Would they be overwhelmed? Will they be able to stockpile? Would they call me Crazy Coupon Lady when I walked out the door?

When I put all the goods I had in a box, along with several donations from another member of MOMS Club, I could barely carry the box. In total, we had at least $250 of products and we broke even with paying tax. Here's what we gave:

9 tubes toothpaste, 7 toothbrushes, 2 dental floss,
14 body wash, 7 shampoo, 2 conditioner,
1 hand soap, 2 dish soap,
9 deodorants,
9 feminine care,
1 sinus spray, 1 multi-purpose eye solution, 1 heat wrap, 2 lip balm, 1 barrette, 1 box of tissues, 1 box of vitamins, 2 boxes of cereal, 1 box of crackers

Seeing it all on a table was very gratifying. When I said I got it all for free, some women looked astonished and a bit wary, as if I were about to pull a rabbit out of hat. Surely it isn't possible to get all that for FREE in three months! What's the catch? was reading on some of their faces.

Unfortunately only 2 of the 11 expected VMC clients showed up. Periodically KARM (where many of them live temporarily) has a lock-down and they will not let you come back in after 6:30pm if you leave. So I think most of them were trapped. However, there were about 10 women from our church, and they were all eager to figure this out for themselves. Though some of them were new to using coupons and many had never shopped at drugstores with this strategy, they soaked in the knowledge. I think I inspired several of them to give it a try and begin bringing to the VMC each month some of the deals they pick up.

Probably the most important person I educated tonight was Lisa Wells, a caseworker who plans to work with their clients one-on-one to help them get these deals themselves. Since you can't use food stamps on hygiene or cleaning products, this is a huge way to stretch their dollars. The VMC also have three computers clients can use to print coupons and access the weekly blogs detailing the deals like Southern Savers, Coupon Katie, and Coupon Mommie. Finally I have to give a big thanks to the one who educated and inspired me to start this couponing mission for others: Gabrielle at Couponing in Critical Times.
Though I didn't get to see the excited expressions of the recipients, Lisa was thrilled to now have items that she can put in "welcome home baskets." Four of their clients signed leases this week, and she's giving them each a basket full of goodies to get them started. She expects any extra products will be quickly snatched up.

As I walked out the door and glanced back at the stockpile, it was a little hard to leave it behind. After all my hard work, I now start with a clean slate for the next organization. Will I be just as successful? What will the next box look like? One thing I do know: it sure feels good to give.

1 comment:

  1. YOU ARE AWESOME! What a blessing you are to others! Great job!!