For this week’s Community Conversations, host ST Billingsley spoke with Lauren Puryear, Founder of the non-profit For the Love of Others.
Q: So tell me about your program.
A: So For the Love of Others, it was founded in 2012. I actually started it in honor of my grandmother who passed away – her name was Marian Smith. And I started it because growing up, she always raised us to believe that it was important to help other people in need. We grew up in a small town called Patterson, New Jersey, and growing up she just always instilled in us that we have to help other people and it’s really important to love others.
My family is very loving, very kind, and that stayed with me throughout my early childhood and then in my adulthood. And now that I’m a mom myself, I teach my son the same values. So I started For the Love of Others in her honor. So all of the projects and things that we do all revolve around love – it’s the central theme for everything that we do.
Q: So this isn’t something brand new that you just started, you’ve actually been doing this for a few years. What year did you roughly start doing this?
Q: And so one of the big things is the new part – the couponing. So tell me about the couponing part, and the class that will be coming up on couponing.
A: So I started couponing about eight months ago. I was feeding the homeless here in Prince William and realized that it became very expensive because the homeless population kept growing. So I had to purchase more and more food. And being on fixed-income it was really hard to be able to meet everybody’s need and afford it. So I literally just prayed for an answer and I was introduced to couponing and it kind of just like fell from the sky.
And ever since I learned how to coupon, I became obsessed. It became an addiction almost. And because I’m able to get a lot of food items for free or little to no money, I just put two and two together. If I’m able to spend $10 to feed 50 people, why not do that? So I kind of went a little overboard and started couponing – had to buy a deep freezer and get storage units and all types of stuff – to be able to house the food items and that’s how I got started with couponing.
Q: So with the class you’ve got coming up, when is the class going to be, or is it – are you going to try to do a monthly or a bi-monthly type thing with the class?
A: So the couponing class is going to be online this time for all of my fans and people who want to learn how coupon. They can join from any state. It’s going to be on November 19th at 6 p.m. And if they go to my website laurenpuryear.com, they will see the link to register for the class.
Q: And you have some programs that has to do with For the Love of Others – the Prom Glam Room. Tell me about that.
A: That’s probably one of my most favorite programs because I love makeup – I love makeup – and I like prom season. A friend of mine and I we started this like this year actually was our first time doing the Prom Glam Room. We selected a high school and asked the social workers, ‘You know, tell us about any graduating seniors who are not able to go to prom because they can’t afford it.’
So we actually got an overwhelming response and based on their needs, their dress size, their shoe size, and their desired look, we found sponsors who donated dresses and then we provided hair, and makeup, and shoes for the young ladies who needed to go to prom. It was actually pretty awesome.
Q: So you also do a toy drive, obviously for Christmas, so tell me about your toy drive program.
A: So our Christmas program is called ‘Christmas Dreams Come True’ and we partner with just different agencies throughout New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland, and ask or find families who are unable to afford Christmas for their children. The children make a wish list and then we have generous sponsors who buy everything on the child’s wish list. And then my family and I will wrap it, and deliver the gifts in time for Christmas.
Q: And with Thanksgiving coming up, you also do a Thanksgiving basket – or baskets.
A: Yes, yes, we do. I have actually done that for four years now and every year it grows. So it’s really exciting to see – like the first year I think we did 10 – and last year we did 100. This year we’re aiming for 500 now because I coupon, so the impact will be a lot greater. So for Thanksgiving, we purchase a turkey, mashed potatoes, rice, gravy – all the sides – vegetables, a drink, rolls, and a dessert. We package it up in a nice basket, decorated, and then we give it to families who are able to cook the meals.
Q: Obviously you can’t do this all by yourself, so how much is your family involved, or do you get volunteers? And if people do want to volunteer to help with this, or even donate, what is the best way for them to do that?
A: Sure, yeah, my family is very involved. My mom, my sister, my cousins, everyone. We all pitch in and get the job done. I mentioned three states – New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. And that’s primarily because that’s where I have family in each one of those states. So we do projects there.
Volunteers are awesome. They are very helpful – we always need more hands – there’s never enough help. And people can get involved by going to the For the Love of Others website, which is www.fortheloveofothers.net and there’s a volunteer link on there.
Check back for more episodes of Community Conversations.