Church’s ministry combines power of donations, coupons to help needy

Trinity Lutheran Church volunteer Trish Frazer looks for soup labels matching her coupons. Frazer initiated a ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church to multiply donations by buying goods for the Samaritan Center with coupons.

Trinity Lutheran Church volunteer Trish Frazer looks for soup labels matching her coupons. Frazer initiated a ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church to multiply donations by buying goods for the Samaritan Center with coupons.

Editor's note: This story in Monday's edition incorrectly said the ministry was taking place at Faith Lutheran Church. The ministry is occurring at Trinity Lutheran Church.

Within a church community, many roles exist — preaching, teaching, singing, children’s work.

For Trish Frazer, its shopping.

“Give me a few bucks and a sale ad and I have wings of an angel,” she said.

Trinity Lutheran Church took up Frazer’s idea in April to make couponing a ministry.

More than 70 individuals donate coupon sheets from various newspapers. More than a dozen meet every Monday morning to clip and sort them. And even more commit the effort to prayer.

From April to September, the ministry purchased 3,660 items for the Samaritan Center with only $1,088.37, making a coupon savings of $5,798.08.

“This is more than I thought it would be when I introduced it,” Frazer acknowledged. “I thought 100 items per week would be huge.”

Trinity Lutheran has been among the nearly two dozen local churches that actively support the Samaritan Center. Their efforts had focused more on the Christmas store, food drives and school supplies, said volunteer organizer Eleanor Klein.

“This, by far, has been our biggest effort,” Klein said. “It’s really caught on.

“Everybody knows we should be helping more.

“It’s easier to drop a dollar and some coupons than to buy extra beans and deliver it to the center.”

Many of the supporters were introduced to the coupon phenomenon by Frazer, either through a couponing class or the Financial Peace University.

“We started with a few coupons and a few ladies,” Klein said.

This ministry is a take-off of the biblical story of Jesus feeding 5,000, Klein said.

“It’s the idea of doing a lot with a little,” she said.

Couponing for food was not Frazer’s “first love.”

“But it is the most fun; you get so much for so little,” she said. “Because it’s for the church and the Samaritan Center, it makes it even more fun.”

Her best purchase day was 140 items for 4 cents.

“I sent a picture of the receipt because no one would believe me,” she said.

Through the United Way of Central Missouri’s Day of Caring, Frazer saw the need for food donations in Mid-Missouri by helping at the Central Missouri Food Bank in Columbia.

“What can I do?” she asked herself.

And there hatched the idea of a church’s couponing effort.

“I can do the shopping; I was born for that,” Frazer said.

So she made her pitch to the Trinity Lutheran Church April voters assembly with four bags of groceries that cost her $1.05 as an example.

As soon as the ministry was approved, the Human Care Board contributed $50 for shopping money.

Other member organizations, even the children’s Vacation Bible School, have held fundraisers of collections for the ministry to the Samaritan Center.

“People are so generous,” Frazer said.

She’s quick to point out the ladies who sort and clip the piles of ad circulars each week do the hard work.

Not every coupon provides the return this ministry needs to make the biggest impact.

Rarely do they use coupons for baby items or health and beauty aids.

“I don’t want them to have to clip everything,” she said.

Volunteer Sandy Lenger puts her organizational skills to use, presorting the donated coupon circulars on Sunday afternoons.

That allows Monday morning clippers to be that much ahead on their scissor work by cutting several similar pages in doubles and triples.

“It’s a service to God,” Lenger said.

By Friday each week, Frazer’s car looks like a miniature pantry stocked full. When she brings her load to the church, people are eager to help carry in the items, which are displayed in Trinity’s lobby each Sunday morning.

Then, volunteer Wayne Engelbrecht takes that week’s collection to the Samaritan Center and the cycle repeats.

To be good stewards with the coupons that don’t fit their specific niché, the clippers send their leftover food coupons to the Florida-based Troopons.com to benefit service members.

“I feel we’re doing something good for someone we never even met,” said clipper Helen Girard.

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