Finding God and a community of godly people is what this nonprofit founder says inspired her to use her own needs as a launching point to help others
WORDS // Jodi Krauss PHOTO // Jonelle Utt
Dotted Line Divas – a local Indianapolis non-profit that utilizes extreme couponing in order to purchase personal care hygiene items and give them to families in need – was founded by a single mother who, only a few short years ago, found herself in desperate need.
After enduring a significant hardship, Christina Huffines, founder of DLD, relocated to a new town in a suburb of Indianapolis along with her two children and only the items they could fit in their car. She was struggling in many ways when they arrived, so she reached out to local community organizations such as food pantries and churches for help. After obtaining support from food pantries and her now home church, Mercy Road, she was able to find a place to live and put food on the table for her family.
“The moment when I was struggling to pay for laundry soap so the kids could have clean clothes to go to school, though, was when I knew, long term, I needed to do something different.”
Christina had a little bit of knowledge about couponing. So, in order to save money, she began clipping coupons to buy basic personal care and hygiene items like toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry soap, shampoo, conditioner, and more.
What she knew about couponing snowballed the more she practiced, and soon she became as good as the “extreme couponers” you only hear about on TV.
When using coupons, Christina discovered it became more economical for her to buy large quantities of items instead of exactly what she needed. Before she knew it, she had a stockpile of items she was able to use for both her small family as well as other friends and family members in need.
“I started giving things away and saving people money, and that felt so good,” states Christina. “It was a way for me to pay it forward after many people had stepped in and helped me start over.”
“I remember once when I was in a meeting with a mentor, she kept encouraging me to make my talent into something more. She would tell me stories and say, ‘God will provide when you walk His walk and listen to Him,’” recalls Christina.
“At the time I thought, ‘This lady is crazy. How could God do something like that?’ I was new to my faith and trying to help anyone I could all while still struggling to keep up with my own bills. It wasn’t long before I started seeing God do His amazing work, though.”
She continues, “The more I listened to Him, the more He showed up. Every time I got knocked down and behind, God was there through my community. He provided. That is what made me start loving Him and wanting to know Him more. Here was someone who knew all my junk and how much I messed up, but yet was still there to help pick me up.”
Christina came from a family of drug addiction, alcoholism and criminal activity. “I did not have a typical upbringing,” she says. “I learned at an early age that if you wanted something, you had to take it. That was the normal way of doing things: not working hard to buy the things you needed or wanted.” Christina stops to reflect, “I was also beaten, molested, and a witness to many illegal activities that no child should have to see in a lifetime. I acted out to get attention, which I got, but only when I did something wrong.
“During all this, I always had this burning feeling that I still did not belong in that life. I was here to do more.”
After a divorce left Christina to raise her kids on her own, she resorted back to the only way of living she knew to make ends meet, “which was unethical and illegal,” Christina confesses. While going through probation, and learning that her new husband had some dark secrets of his own that led to another divorce, the first seeds of her faith were planted.
“My probation officer was a Christian and as strange as this sounds, I enjoyed seeing her,” shares Christina. “I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I started to see that there could be more out there for me. Then, I found Mercy Road, a church that helped me realize that untapped potential.”
Christina’s personal insight into what struggling families face, combined with her skills of couponing developed into a passion to meet this need, and in January 2015, Dotted Line Divas was founded as an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Like Christina’s family, everyday families in need go without personal care and hygiene products for two reasons: 1) The expense is too great to afford such items and 2) there is an inability to purchase or receive these items through various assistance services such as food stamps.
In the beginning, Christina was serving families out of her home, but in 2016, with the help of her fellow board members and volunteers, DLD opened its own personal care pantry for families to obtain the hygiene and personal care products they most need. Families can find an array of products ranging from body wash and hand soap to laundry detergent and toilet paper to feminine hygiene products and deodorant. The items are name-brand like you’d find in any store, and they carry both men’s and women’s products as well as kid’s items.
To date, DLD has had over 1,100 visits to their pantry. They have also partnered with multiple other non-profits, churches, schools and corporations to donate products for back-to-school drives, Christmas events, quarterly product drives to immigrant and refugee families, and other one-time opportunities of service. Altogether, DLD has helped serve close to 4,000 families since their establishment as a non-profit three years ago. They have even seen families come full-circle from visiting the first time as a family in need to becoming a family who gives back financially to DLD.
In addition to couponing for a cause, DLD also offers regular monthly coupon classes taught by Christina so others can learn how to save money by using coupons, too. At each class, which are free to the public, attendees are given the tips and tricks of extreme couponing, including where to find coupons as well as the best websites to browse for the hottest coupon deals. She also teaches what terms and rules apply for shopping at different stores and gives a short lesson on the ‘coupon math.’
As a bonus, she will even take anyone who is interested on a short shopping trip immediately following the class to watch her extreme couponing in action.
Extreme couponing is truly not for the faint of heart! It takes some research, time and effort, but Christina believes so strongly in her class, that others can have it down in no time once they learn and practice a couple of times. Attendees are simply asked to bring an item to donate to their Personal Care Pantry as payment.
There are multiple ways to support Dotted Line Divas. One way is financially, but because of DLD’s unique use of coupons to purchase products, any dollar donated is multiplied far beyond its value. For example, a donation of $110 provides 20 families of four enough personal care and hygiene items to last an entire month. More information about becoming a donor can be found here.
For readers in the Indianapolis area, there are several other ways to support. DLD’s annual fundraiser, Share the Love, is coming up on Saturday, March 2nd, 2019 and will take place at 502 Main in Carmel. They are seeking corporate and table sponsorships in addition to inviting all followers and supporters of DLD to attend. Anyone is welcome to attend and tickets are available for purchase here.
To volunteer, visit here. DLD asks for volunteer help during pantry re-stock days as well as during their regularly scheduled pantry days. Finally, a list of DLD’s current needs can be found on their Product Donations page.