Coupons for the Community program takes off
By Fran Hardy
Local volunteers’ efforts featured on two New York newscasts
Sparta — What a difference a little publicity makes! Since the Nov. 17 Sparta Independent article describing local resident Suzanne Stigers’ drive to collect unwanted coupons to buy food for the local food pantry, her idea has caught on and the program has grown dramatically. She now has six volunteers who work with her weekly. Together they’ve donated $8,000 worth of food and have spent only $1,500 by using coupons. The group has also gained metro-wide attention. Last week Coupons for the Community was featured on the New York City ABC and NBC local news affiliates.
Stigers’ coupon use for her own family, and news last fall that donations to local food pantries were down, sparked her idea to clip coupons on a larger scale.
Manufacturers print $330 billion dollars worth of coupons each year and only about $3 billion are redeemed. So Stigers decided to set up donation locations at local churches to collect the coupons.
Volunteers Cyndy Hahn, Diane Rogers, Carroll Lany, Shirley Boushelle, Sarah Kuhns, and Michele Smith said they all contacted Stigers after seeing The Independent’s article. The women gather with Stigers each Sunday to clip and sort coupons and decide what they’ll buy that week. They also solicit monetary donations, saying they can stretch $10 into $100 worth of food with the coupons. Their goal is to donate $100,000 worth of food this year. They estimate they’ll need around $15,000 in donations to do so.
Over the holidays Stigers attended a party where she met individuals who work for the New York ABC and NBC affiliates. She told them about Coupons for the Community and they both pitched the idea to their newsrooms.
Last Tuesday, Channel 7 Eyewitness News reporter Kemberly Richardson went to Stigers’ home to interview her and the other volunteers. The piece was featured on the 5 o’clock broadcast that night. Last Wednesday NBC News 4 reporter Ben Aaron was at Stigers home to film a piece for LX New York, a new show which airs every day at 5 p.m. Aaron went through the whole process — from clipping, to shopping, to donating to the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry at the First Presbyterian Church. Aaron presented a thorough, but light approach to the topic, admitting he’d never clipped coupons before and wondering if one pronounces it “coopons” or “Q-pons”? The LX New York piece aired last Thursday.
Stigers said the recent publicity has resulted in calls from citizens wanting to start similar programs in their own communities. She’s received calls from Marlboro, Paterson, Chester, and Bergen County as well as Long Island and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The group’s next big day will be on Feb. 9, which is the “100th day of school.” Elementary schools usually ask students to bring in 100 of something to celebrate the occasion, but this year schools are partnering with Coupons for the Community, asking students to bring in one item of a non-edible product, such as toiletries used every day, with a cost of $1 or less. Food stamps do not cover the cost of toiletries, paper products, light bulbs, etc. and food pantries do not usually receive donations of these items. The donated items will then be grouped in piles of 100 for the children to see, and then donated.
For more information about joining or donating, see the Coupons for the Community Web site at www.couponsforthecommunity.org or contact Suzanne Stigers at 973-347-8737.