Denise Whitaker took less than $100 and turned it into a $2,684.08 donation of groceries from Target, Wal-Mart, Publix, and CVS Pharmacy to the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) of Pensacola Wednesday, May 7.
Whitaker said her grandson suffers from a type of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. "Most children who have that don't live to be eight years old," she said. "If he needed to stay somewhere, I'd want to know I'd done my part. I wouldn't feel bad if I had to stay," said Whitaker. Among other things, Whitaker said she donated laundry soap, cereal, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, candy bars, and even incontinence underwear.
She does this through "extreme couponing," a process of combining store and manufacturer coupons gathered from newspapers and internet to maximize product purchases. Whitaker said, "It can be hard. You have to have coupon buddies." Whitaker said she has friends who help her find deals in person and online.
The problem with going to these lengths is the amount of product one accumulates. Whitaker said her husband had to build some extra storage space and she regularly gives items away or trades for gas money. For this haul, Whitaker said 100 percent of her purchase went to the RHM.
Arianna Murray, volunteer manager of the RMH said, "This is going to help a lot of families." Murray also said the charity is entirely funded by the public and they were in need of toiletries and laundry soap. Murray said the RHM allows families of hospitalized children to stay at the residence and eat there for free, either short term or long term. She said high-risk pregnancy situations qualify as well. "We're always in need of volunteers and donations," Murray said. "McDonald's does not fund the RHM, except through the donation box at the window and they allow us the use of their name," she said. The donation could not have come at a better time for three of the families staying, according to Murray, who not only had a loved one in the hospital but also damage from the recent flood waiting for them. "Thank goodness she donated so much so they can take some home," she said. Whitaker said she plans to make another donation to the RHM soon.