By Patrick Szabo
With the holiday season in full swing and charities working their conventional events, one new organization is giving back in a more instructive way.
Loudoun Coupons for Hope is one of Loudoun’s newest nonprofits. Founded in September by 29-year-old Gina Schweppe, the Ashburn-based organization does more than just raise money and provide basic necessities for those in need.
As the name suggests, Loudoun Coupons for Hope provides lessons for anyone interested in couponing.
“I want to help stretch a person’s dollar,” Schweppe said. “That’s my goal.”
She posts the couponing lessons on her YouTube channel, named “Gina Schweppe.”
“I actually go into the store and … give my viewers a breakdown of how much it’s all going to cost,” she said.
Of course, there is much more to the organization’s mission than just lessons for interested consumers. Schweppe uses her knowledge of couponing to purchase basic essentials at a discounted rate before donating them all to those in need through different events and projects.
Most recently, LCFH partnered with It Takes a Village, Baby to provide Christmas stockings for families in need. Schweppe put her couponing know-how to good use and assembled more than 300 low-cost Christmas stockings.
According to Kia Taylor Barker, special events coordinator at Leesburg nonprofit It Takes a Village, Baby, more than 150 families signed up for the second annual toy event, which was held on the first weekend in December. LCFH was one of four new sponsors for the event.
“Gina’s sponsorship was different in that she came to us wanting to help, as opposed to us going to her and asking,” Barker said. “Gina worked her couponing magic and, in a matter of just a few weeks, pulled together enough donated items from local stores and her own YouTube followers to accommodate all of our Village children.”
The money for these types of purchases, although minimal after couponing, comes from donations and out of Schweppe’s own pocket.
LCFH is also helping the Community Church’s Messiah’s Market food pantry with their Angel Tree program, which will provide Christmas gifts for children of families in need. Schweppe will again be using her couponing skills to help purchase gifts at a low cost.
Additionally, LCFH provides the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter with personal care items such as shampoo, body wash and makeup for women to wear on interviews.
“Most of the women who come to the LAWS shelter, they’ve lost everything,” Schweppe said. “So now they’re starting from scratch.”
She will be teaching a couponing class for the women in February.
“The thing we appreciated about Gina’s offer is that it is definitely a unique skill,” LAWS Executive Director Nicole Acosta said. “Who wouldn’t want to find out a way to make the dollar stretch?”
Blessing Bags is another holiday LCFH project. Already assembled and ready to hand out, these bags contain everyday essentials such as socks, water bottles, granola bars and a few quarters.
“It’s basically something to give to someone that you see on the street having a hard time,” Schweppe said. “It’s something in addition to money to give to someone who is homeless.”
Schweppe’s first encounters with couponing came when she was a child while helping her mother coupon on shopping trips.
“I think that’s how Gina saw that [couponing] wasn’t only just for our home, that it was for anybody,” her mother said. “She saw that you could do this and feel good about it.”
Schweppe insists she has saved tens of thousands of dollars from the skillset throughout the years.
For all Schweppe’s efforts in the past few months, Loudoun Coupons for Hope won the People’s Choice Award earlier this month in the Mason Enterprise Center of Leesburg’s first “Superpitch” Online Video Contest. The winning video features Schweppe describing the nonprofit’s mission and upcoming projects.
Schweppe now intends to start organizing LCFH events of her own. In January, she hopes to partner with a local laundromat to provide a night of free laundry service.
“I feel like that is what I need to do to be successful,” she said. “Just jump in and see what happens.”
Learn more about Loudoun Coupons for Hope on Schweppe’s YouTube channel or at ginaschweppe.com.