Using Coupons to Donate to Charity
Using coupons at the grocery stores is a great way to save money for your family, but they can also be used to help charities and people in need. If you want to add donating items purchased with coupons as a goal for your life, it can be quite a wonderful experience. Imagine being able to leave the store with bags full of food, deodorants, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bar soap, shampoo, etc. all of which you plan to donate. When I do this, I get so excited it's like a natural high.
Examples of what and where to donate
Toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorants, bar soap, body wash, shampoo, lotions, and razors can be donated to homeless shelters and women's centers.
Food can be donated to soup kitchens, church food pantries, community centers, drop-in centers and schools in poor neighborhoods.
School supplies can be donated to schools (obviously), after drop-in centers, and organizations that send items to third world countries. If your church participates in Operation Christmas Child, school supplies are a welcome addition to those shoe boxes.
Snacks, candy, gum, mints, baby wipes, writing supplies such as pens, paper, envelopes, stationery can all be packed in boxes and sent in care packages to our troops overseas.
Baby supplies such as diapers, wipes, formulas, baby food, baby powder, shampoo, soap can be brought also to homeless shelters, women's centers, young mother's programs, etc.
This can be done as a once per month donation, quarterly, or twice per year, or even annually such as at Christmas, back to school, etc.
Examples of annual projects:
Back to School Backpacks
A social service agency in our town collects backpacks and school supplies for elementary school children. Much of the school supplies donated are from Staples during back to school sales.The families serviced are clients of the agency. These students would not have new supplies or a backpack if it wasn't for this project.
Make a Difference Day
A woman in our town that ran a monthly coupon group developed a project for Make a Difference Day which takes place every October. Six months before the October date, she gathered her coupon group, and explained the project which consisted of everyone collecting as many groceries and toiletries ( on sale and with a coupon of course) as possible in a six month period. At the end of the 6 months, on the actual Make a Difference Day, they met at a local Shop Rite grocery store, and the store owner agreed each year to match all the Shop Rite brand products that were donated. Although there were no coupons for these, the group bought the products for the previous six months and packed them in separate bags for the project. That day, they searched the shelves to get one matching product for each donated item. Then all the bags ( between 40 - 60) were donated to a local single mothers apartment program to help the residents.
College Students in Foster Care
A woman I know has her friends gather toiletries and snacks on sale each month, and they are part of a foster care college student program where they support a college student that grew up in foster care by sending a care package each month. The student has really appreciated it, and with a few people helping out, some really nice care packages have been sent.
Backpacks for the Homeless
Someone I know also has collected backpacks each year, new or gently used, and filled them with toiletry products she and friends bought with coupons all year. Christmas candy was also put in the backpacks and their children made Christmas cards. At Christmas, the women and children filled the backpacks with toiletries and candy and donated them to a local agency that works with the homeless. The backpacks not only serve as a carrier for the toiletries but a pillow for the homeless at night.
How to Get Started
The first step to doing this is getting as many coupons as you can. It's easiest to do this if you have a group of people who also save coupons, and may be willing to also purchase items for charity. Church groups, schools, social service agencies, food pantries, and senior citizen centers are great places to start these kinds of groups. Groups can meet weekly and bring their coupons. One person needs to be in charge, and collect coupons from people who can't make the meeting. Everyone should look at the weekly fliers to see the deals and compare them to the coupons that are in their possession. Also, they can look at Couponmom.com in the stores in their area and see what deals are available in their city, and surrounding towns. When everyone meets in the group, they all compare notes on the deals they found. All the coupon fliers will then need to be looked through and when the supply is complete, the group decide who will shop for what. When they return the next week, they can bring their donations and store them in a closet or spare room in the meeting place.
Where to find these items
Food: The best place to purchase food with coupons is at grocery stores or Walmart and Target type department stores.
Toiletries: Grocery stores, drug stores like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, department stores like Walmart, Kmart, Target, etc.
School Supplies: Staples and Walgreens and some grocery stores during back to school sales. Department stores may not necessarily have sales but they have good back to school deals. Also, job lot and dollar stores have pretty good prices as well.
Baby Supplies: Matching coupons to sales are easiest to do at grocery stores, drug stores, and department stores like Target and Walmart.
I found that participating in groups like this was really helpful when my children were little and I wanted to participate in community projects or volunteering but my children were too young to leave, and I didn't always have a babysitter. Use your imagination to start a project because there are so many needy people out there. Often by reading the local paper, you can find groups or organizations in need and just go with it. It's also a very nice way to get your children involved in giving. If you explain the project to them, when you go to the store, you can let them purchase the items with coupons, or pack the backpacks or donation bags and help you bring them to the donation site. People love to see children participating in causes like this, and your children will feel great about being able to help. Plus it instills in them at an early age the importance of giving back.
Update: I wrote this about 1 year ago and since then, my parent's church has been participating in a weekly food bank where they help give out food to 50 needy families. I offered to help them get more food so the church has just started to save coupons for me and I am using them to multiply the amount of food they give out. I am excited about it and the church is too. So many good things can be accomplished with coupons.
Please leave a message below if any of you are doing something similar and any ideas you have on how to make it more successful.
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