coupon
The group meets twice monthly at the Discovery Community Center to sort through bags of coupons looking for expired ones to send to Soldiers serving overseas.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Diana Mickleberry's 3-year-old daughter Arianna understands the value of the coupon.

"She could teach a class," Mickleberry said. "We'll go to the store and she will hold up coupons and say, 'Coupons are money, people.'"

But it's because Arianna has an excellent teacher in Mickleberry, a military spouse, full-time student and couponista.

The Mickleberry Family arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in May. After Mickleberry moved on post, she looked for someone who couponed as much as she did. She learned of Coupon Connoisseurs of JBLM, a group started by Kari Figueredo, also a spouse.

Figueredo formed the group after she learned Army Community Services no longer offered its food closet service, which provided military Families with groceries during hard times.

"I thought let's get people who coupon together and together we'll create these huge stockpiles for people that need them," Figueredo said.

Mickleberry joined Figueredo as administrators of the group and since May nearly 550 people have "liked" their Facebook page.

To an outsider, the time and energy Mickleberry and Figueredo dedicate to coupons is similar to the television show "Extreme Couponing," which features shoppers who go to extremes to save hundreds of dollars at checkout. But the major difference between the JBLM spouses and the Hollywood version is Mickleberry and Figueredo use their stockpiles to feed the homeless and help military Families learn the value of saving for their own families.

"It's really important to help a fellow brother or sister out to get them through a rough time," Figueredo said.

Coupon Connoisseurs of JBLM holds bi-monthly coupon swaps on post. Each meeting features a question-and-answer section where newcomers can ask questions and advice. Figueredo and Mickleberry put together gift baskets with products worth $50 to $100, purchased with coupons, and raffles them off at the swaps. The money raised goes toward putting together bags for their Feed the Homeless events.

People who attend the meetings also bring their expired coupons that in turn Figueredo and Mickleberry send to Coups for Troops, a program that allows military Families overseas to use expired coupons for up to six months past its date.

Figueredo and Mickleberry go beyond their meetings and take first time coupon users out with them on their weekend shopping trips to show them how to save money, or in some cases leave the store with groceries and not have spent a cent.

"It's the gift that keeps on giving," Figueredo said. "You find out about us and we show you the right way to coupon as a military Family and then you chose what you want to do with it."

The group's next Feed the Homeless event is Sunday. They are anticipating putting together more than 100 bags of sandwiches, fruit, snacks and hygiene products -- all paid for with coupons.

The group is also thinking ahead to the holiday season and the annual toy drives on the installation. Using coupons the duo has been stockpiling children's board games they purchased for $1 each.
"We want to combine our couponing efforts through our entire group and anyone who would like to donate and do the biggest drop off at JBLM that they've ever seen from their own community," Mickleberry said.

Figueredo and Mickleberry's selfless acts to donate and teach is all done on their own volunteered time. In the Mickleberry household couponing has become a family event. Her husband helps her unload and organize their own personal stockpile in their garage and helps her cut coupons. But he knows better than to mess with her four binders of organized coupons.

Both Figueredo and Mickleberry have organized stockpiles in their garages.

"It's not hoarding, I call it planning," Figueredo said.

The group wants military Families to be able to save money on food so they can put away funds for a rainy day or plan a family outing. Arianna likes to remind her mother it's time for a trip to Chuck E. Cheese when she sees the coupon.

For more information about Coupon Connoisseurs of JBLM visit their Facebook page or email them at couponconnoisseursofjblm@gmail.com.

Somer Breeze-Hanson: somer.breeze-hanson@nwguardian.com

Page last updated Thu October 6th, 2011 at 00:00