Donor saves JFS thousands through coupons

September 8, 2017

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Not everyone who donates to Jewish Family Service gives in monetary form. At least, not directly. Janna Kestenbaum has been giving of her time and efforts to JFS for years through couponing.

About once a quarter, Kestenbaum brings her coupons to JFS and goes shopping with volunteer coordinator, Jody Laibstain to stock the JFS Food Pantry. Laibstain estimates that each shopping trip yields about $1,000 worth of food— for free—to stock the pantry and help feed many in the community. Much of what is purchased JFS wouldn’t normally get through regular food donations, such as meat, frozen vegetables, etc.

Personal struggles made lasting impression
“Although I can’t remember learning about couponing at my mother’s knee, I certainly learned about frugality. I was a divorced mother of a toddler when I became more focused on stretching my paycheck,” Kestenbaum says. “I remember turning in aluminum cans for recycling just to have enough money to buy some fresh fruit for my child. The personal struggles I had at that time made a profound impression on me. Eliminating hunger in a land of abundance became my personal mission. That was almost 30 years ago.

“I learned from my mom to stock up on things when they were on sale or clearance, so once I found out how to get coupons in quantities, I started to practice what has come to be called “extreme couponing.” With careful planning and research, I strategized how to get the maximum merchandise for the least amount of money. Eventually, I built a binder system to organize my couponing enterprise,” says Kestenbaum.

While most people coupon for just themselves and their family, Kestenbaum found that a side effect of getting groceries and nonfood items for a lot less was that her family didn’t necessarily utilize all those items, either because the quantity was beyond their needs, or they personally didn’t care for everything. Consequently, a stockpile for donation was born. Kestenbaum says, “It didn’t take long before I was filling my car a few times over with donations for the Food Pantry at least four to five times each year.”

JFS won my allegiance
About six years ago, Kestenbaum started donating her time and coupons to JFS. “JFS considers their clients as individuals with their own needs and tastes, and allows them to select the foods they will be receive. So, it was JFS Food Pantry’s business model, as well as the way clients are shown dignity and humanity, that resonated with me and won my allegiance,” says Kestenbaum.

“There is a commitment of time and effort which varies. Sometimes I have friends help me by being a second shopper to double the couponing success in the same amount of time. As a result of these efforts, I’ve been able to triple my buying power and that brings me great satisfaction,” says Kestenbaum.

Kestenbaum urges everyone to donate to the JFS Food Pantry, explaining, “Most of us can manage some canned goods or dry goods added to our regular grocery list. There’s always something on sale. Split a case or a multipack, browse your home pantry, do a collection at work. Imagine that you are an instrument of God’s love. If one is sure of a comfortable existence, be just as sure that others can use your help.”

September is Hunger Action Month. To organize a food drive or donate to the JFS Food Pantries, contact Jody Laibstain at 757-321-2222 or Maryann Kettyle at 757-459-4640.

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