This Holiday Heroes profile is from 2009; nominate your hero for 2010.
Kris Bleiler remembers the day long ago when her sister was sent to the store to buy some groceries. On her way there, a neighborhood bully pushed the girl around and took the money.
A child at the time, Kris will never forget how her mother, Linda Day, cried. Sure, Day was upset about the scuffle. But she also was upset that the cash was gone. The divorced mother was struggling to make ends meet and literally counting every penny.
“She didn’t have any more money,” said Bleiler, 41.
Bleiler’s mother remarried a couple of years later and the family knew relative comfort. But Bleiler of Marietta will always remember those early years of want and how one incident could upset the precarious financial balance of a household.
Maybe that’s why she’s now known among friends as Krissy the Coupon Queen. She doesn’t clip them for herself. She makes a solid income as an accountant at a construction firm.
Each week, Bleiler clips hundreds of dollars worth of coupons from newspapers and buys dozens of bags of groceries and household staples. Then she quietly distributes care packages to families in need.
“She goes to the grocery store every single day with those coupons and buys like $100 or $200 worth of groceries for almost nothing,” said Sandra Lewis, her friend who nominated Bleiler to be a Holiday Hero. “Then she gives away all of it. All of it.”
Through her church, neighborhood association and network of friends, Bleiler gets names of families hit with hard times. Sometimes she delivers the bags of food herself. Sometimes she asks friends to make the deliveries.
“Most of the time I just say, ‘Hey, you know what, I had extra and maybe you use it,’ ” Bleiler said. “I just play it off that way because you don’t want to embarrass anybody.”
That’s partly why Bleiler’s friends admire her — her consideration for the feelings of others when they are vulnerable.
“She’s incredibly intuitive and very observant,” said her friend Judy McCall. “I’ve seen her at a restaurant talking with a server and, if she senses the person is in need, she’ll leave an outrageously large tip.”
For a while, Bleiler’s kitchen was so packed with pancake mix, diapers, paper towels, fruit roll-ups — whatever she had coupons for — it was hard to move around. She finally had a handyman convert empty space under her stairs into a pantry solely for her food ministry.
“I feel so blessed and like I have so much,” Bleiler said. “I was caught up in material things for a while, but then you grow out of it and you realize what is important — and that’s making sure that others are cared for.”
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