A local group that has a focus on being frugal has done a whole lot of giving this Christmas season.
The Coupon Patrol, an Athens group that came together to learn how to save money using coupons, is a community-minded group of men and women who have taken their skills and used them to pay it forward by helping the less fortunate.
Over the past six months the 1,800-member group, which shares information on Facebook, has donated more than $4,000 in food, cleaning supplies and health and beauty aids to families in need.
Group administrator Larry Pierce said each month members of the group suggest names of those in need. Pierce then checks the situation of the families suggested and goes over the details of their hardship with Coupon Patrol moderators. When a decision is made it is announced to the group and the process of collecting items the family needs begins. Names of those in need are never divulged, according to Pierce.
“It’s a group that cares for their fellow man,” he said.
On Tuesday, members of The Coupon Patrol helped a family of five, which includes one parent and four children, as well as a lady who was recently widowed.
Two $50 gift cards were also mailed to two other families in need.
Numerous boxes and bags of food, supplies, clothes and toys were delivered to the young family. Pierce said he asked the person receiving the gifts on behalf of the family not to peek. When eyes opened, the recipient was greeted with a “Merry Christmas” and a house full of presents.
“Of course there were a few tears and hugs,” Pierce said.
The parent said the babies had never had a Christmas like this before, he added.
He believes each person in the group gives from the heart and none of it could be done without them.
“I want to say a special thank you to the TCP and everyone who donated to my family,” the recipient told Pierce Wednesday. “My children will now have the best Christmas ever. … I can’t wait to see their smiling faces Christmas morning and it’s all because of you. You have blessed me in so many ways and a thousand ‘thank yous’ would still not be enough.”
With stress and worry a part of day-to-day life for the struggling family, now, they believe they don’t have to worry about a thing.
“I have seen so many bad days, that you all have put a smile on my face that will never go away,” the recipient said. “I will remember this day and Christmas forever. … I am truly blessed to have amazing people care for me and my kids.”
The Coupon Patrol is an amazing group, Pierce said. “Each and every person who donated made this happen,” he said. “Each and every person who said a prayer made this happen. Thank you all so much. ”
Pierce, who left a high profile site where he was forum leader to create the group, said The Coupon Patrol has been dubbed a family.
“After three years of answering questions and posting deals for strangers, I wanted to do something for people that I meet every day in stores, and stop to chat instead of never knowing anyone other than their screen names.”
Moderators include Mandy Hemmen, Maria Burkhead, Alison Mendoza and Phebe Durant. Posts on the social networking site include the deals members receive by using coupons. Members share tips and savings.
“One of the members, Meredith Carr, penned a statement that rings true with The Coupon Patrol,” Pierce said. “She said, ‘You’ll never know how it feels to give until you know how it feels to need.’”
To find out more, search “The Coupon Patrol Chat Room” on Facebook.