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‘Couponers’ yield the essentials for Kamloops charities

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Coupons will never be the same after learning how Urban Systems civil and mechanical engineering technologists Jen Crosman and Jen Adair turned $100 from the Urban Systems Foundation into a donation of $1,300 in valued products through their extreme “couponing” skills.

Urban Systems technologists leverage their extreme couponing skills for social good

The two technologists at Urban Systems Kamloops branch first got into couponing a year ago when they learned about it through a local group. From there, they became involved in Canada-wide networks of people who collect and trade coupons through local meet-ups, online communication and mail exchanges.

“There’s a huge network of people involved,” Jen Crosman says. “It’s a nice community to be involved in.”

But be warned: Couponing is time consuming and addictive. For the right cause, it’s worth the effort.

Ronny Revillard, Urban Systems Foundation director in Kamloops, knew about the knowledge and technique the two enthusiasts developed in couponing. He suggested what Jen Crosman had in the back of her mind anyway — using their skills to acquire products for local charities that could use them.

They contacted local charity ASK Wellness Centre (ASK) and received a list of items needed by the Kamloops agency to support individuals affected by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. Personal-care products such as shampoo, contact lens solution, toothpaste and deodorant were especially in demand.

Jen Crosman and Jen Adair devoted the summer to collecting coupons, trading them, and getting the word out about their endeavour to friends, colleagues and online groups.

“To be able to go out and get items for next to nothing and spread it around is an amazing feeling,” says Jen Crosman. “So many people would like to donate but just don’t have the means.”

By the end of the summer, she and Jen Adair had collected $1,300 worth of personal-care products and coffee for ASK and Emerald House, an emergency homeless shelter for women in Kamloops. The products came from Save-On-Foods and London Drugs, which are the only two stores that allow “coupon stacking” — applying multiple coupons for the same product.

Jen Crosman and Jen Adair encountered some roadblocks when trying to find out what items to donate to which local charities. This sparked the creation of a new Facebook group where Kamloops couponers can exchange knowledge, tips and resources with non-profit organizations. A local charity, the United Way of Thompson Nicola Cariboo, is helping to promote the group to other non-profit organizations.

Jen Crosman and her “couponer-in-crime” experienced many gratifying moments throughout the collection process, as people generously gave away their coupons and provided extras in their trades after learning about the initiative. They also encountered enthusiasm from store clerks and managers who appreciate their efforts.

“The manager at Save-On has commented on how people don’t realize what the coupon community is doing for charities,” Jen Crosman says. “I’ve gone through a Save-On where the cashier has come out and hugged us.”

Before rushing to the store to maximize your coupons, however, Jen Crosman advises doing some thoughtful research first.

“There are a lot of fine details to learn — what times you can go, what coupons you can use at different stores, the process of where you go and who you talk to at each location,” she says.

Jen Crosman suggests joining a Facebook group and reaching out to one of the many couponing communities as a starting point. “Everyone in those groups is usually very helpful. They like helping new people,” she says.

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