Raising mission dollars is only common cents for a group of volunteers working with the interfaith Capitol Hill United Ministries (CHUM). Using ordinary grocery coupons like those that come in every Sunday newspaper, CHUM raises more than $36,000 a year to support the non-profit agencies that serve their low-income district. The 14-year old Coupon Redemption Program benefits the homeless, the hungry, the mentally ill, AIDS victims, children, youth, and seniors in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Every week, thousands of coupons are collected by CHUM's 16 affiliated churches and processed by a team of volunteers. The coupons are sorted, trimmed, labeled, folded, and categorized before being attached to products in a Capitol Hill King Sooper's grocery.
Customers who buy the products are asked to donate the coupons back to the CHUM program.
"The project has been around long enough that most people who shop at this market are familiar with it," said Richard Moore, a Methodist volunteer. "They are happy to donate coupons back to CHUM. Sometimes, a family needs to redeem the coupon for themselves, and we are happy for them to do so if it helps them up-front."
Once a week, volunteers collect and count the coupons donated back to the market. Their monetary value is submitted to King Sooper's for cash redemption. "We collect about $700 a week from this effort," said Episcopal volunteer Karen Hansen "We meet monthly to receive grant requests from the various schools and non-profit agencies that serve our neighborhood. We issue $1,000 and $2,000 grants as soon as we have funding."
Agencies normally receive one grant per year.
The Coupon Redemption Program is as open and ecumenical as the neighborhood it serves. The volunteers are men, women, and children. One blind volunteer arrives by bus every week to help fold. Some volunteers who live outside of the district feel so strongly about the program that they show up every week.
A local school for mentally challenged young people sends students over to help with the clipping and folding. "These kids just love to help out, and we appreciate their contribution," Hansen said. "We are truly reflective of God's people."
On Monday, May 26, a vanload of General Assembly participants joined the unique program briefly in a "hands-on" Mission/Cultural Tour excursion. Snipping, clipping and folding, they joined the ranks of volunteers in a mission that makes cents.
By Albert H. Lee