0

Super savers: Group clips coupons, shops to help needy

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

DACULA -- Heather Bonner enters a Dacula Publix carrying her 11-month-old daughter with one hand and pushing a cart seating her 3-year-old twin boys with the other.

With a hefty stack of coupons, she knows exactly what she is going to buy. In 20 minutes, Bonner arrives at the checkout with 10 toothpastes, four frozen pizzas and ketchups among other food. But this purchase isn't for her, everything in the cart is going to Gwinnett charities.

A $44.61 total becomes $4.90. This is one of her worse days.

"I was learning to coupon for myself and my own family, and I had this huge stockpile," Bonner said. "Then I felt like I was being called to do something way better."

So this February, Bonner started a ministry at First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville called Clipping for a Cause. She encouraged church members to donate unused coupon booklets. Then, using websites like www.iheartpublix.com and www.southernsavers.com volunteers identify coupon and store sale combinations that make items dirt cheap or even free.

"At first, I found it all overwhelming and kept saying, 'How do you do this?'" said Karla Price of Dacula, who has been involved since March. "And then you go shopping and buy a whole bunch of things for less than a dollar and you're like, 'Wow, it really does work.'"

Volunteers come together every two weeks to clip from coupon books kept from the beginning of the program. Then, they divide the coupons up and shop. On her way to bring the food to local charities once a month, Bonner collects other donations as part of a mobile food drive.

In five months, Clipping for a Cause donated 5,000 items. They saved $2,220.08. And spent $95.

The program has been growing as word of its success has spread. Now about 10 people come every two weeks to clip coupons and shop.

"I got 79-cent canned goods," said Janna Bearden of Lilburn, a newbie coupon shopper. "I thought that was a good deal but they probably don't think that's good."

"Only if it's free!" another woman piped up.

Clipping for a Cause attracted some people not only so they could help others, but also so they could learn to save money.

"I have never been a coupon shopper. I threw them away," said Teresa Parker of Lawrenceville. But then hard times hit, and her husband lost his job. "I realized I needed to be more frugal and save money everywhere I could."

Bonner publicizes her group and cheap coupon deals online at clippingforacause.blogspot.com. The blog caught the eye of Southern Savers, who contacted her to write a guest entry. After that, she was contacted by groups all over the Southeast interested in starting their own Clipping for a Cause program.

"I just wanted to be a little bitty group," Bonner said. But now Clipping for a Cause is in eight states. She incorporated it as a nonprofit on July 13 and has the title of founder.

Bonner found herself much more busy as she started to help people hundreds of miles away emulate her success. Memories of her first delivery drive her determination.

The first time she went to make a delivery to the Lawrenceville co-op, she went in the wrong door. She saw first-hand how people were crowded like sardines sitting with their kids, waiting for their food.

"A lot of people think, 'Oh, it's foreign countries that have hunger problems," Bonner said. "But it's happening right here in our communities."