Valley mom’s couponing initiative grows into vital network for the needy

Fifteen years ago, Lisa Rose was diagnosed with cancer.

Knowing she’d have to stop work for a while, the Kentville mom originally from Woodville began to worry about how she’d feed her family. She’d even count the number of cans of food in her cupboard to see if she could stretch her supply till the next monthly installment of the Canada child benefit kicked in.

During those trying times, Rose reached out to her friend and sounding board, Natasha. One of their conversations landed on the topic of the television show Extreme Couponing, which showcased shoppers who had mastered the art of saving on purchases.

Afterwards, the two women did some research on just how it all worked, and then they put the principle into practice in their own backyard.

They became so successful at couponing that they were soon being paid in gift cards to leave stores.

Unfortunately for the merchants, the couponing pair were having too much fun and could not be contained. They resolved to teach others how to save money as well. So they launched The Annapolis Valley Frugal Moms Society — a group that was totally driven by social media — and members joined up fast.

But that was only the beginning of the story.

In 2019, after an apartment fire in the community, the money-saving enterprise outgrew couponing and price-matching and began tackling much broader demands.

Last year alone, under the auspices of the Frugal Moms Society, 330,000 pounds of “rescued” food, donated by local farmers, groups and individuals who want to help those in need, was redistributed in the form of 350 Christmas hampers for seniors and families.

One of the many residents who saw a need to help was Melinda Cote, who had been following Rose’s work. She wanted to give back, and became a volunteer with the group.

“The funny thing is that when you join a group to volunteer with, you do it to help others, but you then realize how much you learn about yourself,” Cote said. “How strong you become and how important it is to be non-judging of people, as you do not know other people’s story.”

If that was not enough to keep them on their toes, Rose and the volunteers also began putting on cooking and canning classes.

The goal is not only to increase the food supply but also to teach people how to help themselves and save money along the way.

Fifteen volunteers now keep the Frugal Moms group running, and they cover an area from Windsor to Digby. Along with all the food security challenges they meet, they’ve also taken on clothing and house-hold-item giveaways every two months throughout the Valley.

The Annapolis Valley Frugal Moms Society is not unique in Nova Scotia. A similar group of helpers and sharers has cropped up in Cape Breton. Founded two years ago by Kristen Dunlop, the Moms Helping Moms CB Facebook group facilitates members swapping baby clothes, cribs and toys on a daily basis.

“There’s extra diapers, formula and even coupons. Anything that can be reused and take the financial pressure off recipients,” says Dunlop, a mother of two living in Glace Bay.

The idea for a Facebook page focused on sharing came as she looked for some way to pass on her children’s lightly used clothing. Not finding anything on social media, she decided to start a group, which now boasts 4,800 members.

“The moms in the group are really generous,” she said. “The help the group gives to our community really warms my heart.”

Nonetheless, managing all that generosity and sustaining operations like the one in the Valley is proving to be a big challenge — no matter how resourceful, resilient and self-sacrificing the participants are.

Currently, the volunteers in the Valley group that Rose pioneered use their own vehicles to move goods. The wear and tear and high gas prices are taking their toll.

One remedy would be to have more drop-off locations and more volunteers, which would cut down on the amount of driving.

Rose says “we need people who don’t mind grabbing a load of food and moving it from one end of a location to another.”

Rose says the group currently spends $5,000 a month on top of the rescue food donated for emergency hampers and they could really use storage space to accommodate all the needs, preferably in Kentville or Coldbrook. A central location would also free up volunteers’ personal freezers and storage space at home.

But hunting for a storage solution keeps getting pushed off because feeding and taking care of people is more of a priority, Rose says. Finding new sources of funding is also top of mind; the venture currently lacks corporate sponsors. “Right now, it is still really one family giving to another and what comes in free goes out free.”

When the needs outstrip the available money, Rose digs into her own pocket.

For her, it’s a personal struggle. Rose feels that the teen mom still dwells within her, living in fear of judgment, and it makes her want to keep finding ways to help others so they are “not going through what I did.”

And so she keeps pouring her energy into her labour of love, which has become a major blessing to her community.

You can find more information about the Annapolis Valley Frugal Moms Society on their Facebook or Instagram pages or call Lisa Rose at 902-599-4270. Moms Helping Moms CB has a Facebook page.

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