During the Christmas season, there are several organizations in Macon County that busy themselves with providing Christmas for local children in need.
But not all of them go around calling themselves frogs.
Donna Griffith, Data Specialist at the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, has gone above and beyond her work duties and created a project called F.R.O.G.— Fully Relying On God. This season she utilized years of experience in extreme couponing, as well as lots of helping hands, to put gifts under the tree for 91 needy kids, as well as providing Christmas care packages for around 80 senior citizens.
“We call them frog baskets,” said Griffith, who has carried on this project for several years. “We call this frogging. So we frog for our seniors, we frog for the community, we frog for the kids. I chase sales all year long. I don’t stop. Somebody jokingly said, ‘oh, you get your rest now that Christmas has come’; no, we start back the very day after Christmas. But I do it because God says to love everyone.”
Parents apply for the Christmas packages, and Griffith screens applicants thoroughly. “I do check to make sure they’re not on multiple lists—not covered by Macon Helps or Bledsoe. I even make sure that they don’t have a wealthy grandparent who would cover them—so these are really kids who wouldn’t have anything under the tree.”
Some of the items given are gently used, some are donated from individuals in the community who heard about the project, and the rest have been bought with coupons.
“Each child was asked what they wanted for Christmas,” said Griffith. “The biggest majority of the kids asked for very simple things—rubber balls , coloring books, a doll… even shampoo, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. So it was not what we would typically see our kids ask for; they just wanted something under the tree. We tried to start by answering their basic requests, and then we would build on each package from there. Each bag was different.”
In addition to the little group of helpers she calls her “Christmas Elves,” Griffith said that many people contributed to the success of the F.R.O.G. project this year:
“When word got out that the group we were serving was much larger than anticipated—it’s grown every year—we’ve had many in the community who’ve stepped up and brought in new toys. A couple families were totally adopted by local churches. I’ve had friends post thing on Facebook, unbeknownst to me, and ask for help. Everyone’s had a big heart this year, and it’s just been a blessing to see everyone in Macon County step up on behalf of the kids as well as the seniors.”
Griffith is a die-hard couponer, and teaches a free class every other month in Lafayette. “Between the local stores here and using two of the grocery stores in Gallatin,” she said, “they give you a little receipt that tells you what your savings is for a year. For me, it’s been an average of no less than $5,000 a year for the four years since I started.
“And you can do a variety of things with that. You can get out of debt, which is what I encourage everyone to do first. You can stock your household, which is also an encouragement. And you can have a food pantry, so that if you have a family member, or you know of someone in an emergency, you can go to that food pantry and bless somebody who’s having a hard time. And that’s the real concept, to pay it forward.”