Ten months of clipping helped fill 10 food pantries, By Fran Hardy Sparta One year ago the idea for Coupons for the Community was just a fleeting, crazy notion in Suzanne Stigers’ imagination. But last November she stopped thinking about it and started trying it out. The idea caught on. Ten months later, Stigers and a small team of dedicated volunteers can be seen marching through grocery stores with stacks of coupons in hand, filling their carts with necessities for a fraction of their costs. They turned that one crazy idea into $70,000 worth of food, toiletries, and laundry products and donated it all to ten local food pantries in Sussex and Morris counties. Stigers conceived Coupons for the Community as a grassroots campaign to purchase sorely needed items for the seriously depleted local food pantries for just pennies on the dollar by using coupons. The group’s goal is to provide $100,000 worth food and other necessities for these charities by the end of 2010. That deadline is still three months away and the group is only $30,000 short of its goal. The organization seeks donations of unwanted coupons as well as cash donations to purchase items with the coupons. The use of coupons allows them to purchase up to ten times more food for the money they spend and it can even result in free items. The organization’s goal is to save 85 percent on purchases for the food pantries. Many families hit hard by the recession and unemployment rely on local food pantries for items they can no longer afford. Food pantries have seen a sharp increase in the number of families in need over the last year and their shelves often come close to being empty. The Coupons for the Community organization is helping to restore supplies of food and toiletries and in so doing, they also help restore the dignity, self respect and self sufficiency of those struggling in the difficult economy. Stigers and her team began shopping with their coupons to help supply the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry located at the First Presbyterian Church. From there they went on to include the food pantry at Newton’s First Baptist Church, and they now help supply several other pantries in Sussex and Morris counties. Seven schools in Sussex County participated in the Coupons for the Community 100th day of school celebration and over 3,000 toiletry items were collected for the group to donate. These donations are especially helpful because families on food stamps cannot use the stamps to purchase toiletries and food pantries often cannot afford to provide them. Coupons for the Community also adopted the Children’s Summer Lunch program at the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry. This program provides nutritious lunches during the summer months for children who are part of their school’s free lunch program during the school year. The group shopped for and helped bag over 1,000 bags of groceries for this summer’s lunch program. Coupons for the Community has been featured on both ABC and NBC local news broadcasts and Stigers said she has been contacted by people from all over the country interested in starting similar programs in their communities. Stigers said, “More schools, churches, and businesses get involved in what we are doing every day and I can’t wait to see what 2011 will bring.” She added, “There are not enough hours in the day to talk about the wonderful and life changing experiences we’ve all had.” For more information about the organization, visit its Web site at www.couponsforthecommunity.org . To donate coupons, cash, or to volunteer, contact Suzanne Stigers at Coupons for the Community, PO Box 156, Sparta NJ 07871, or by phone at 973-347-8737.