So what happens at a squeaker convention? Considering I had never been to an organized gathering of squeakers, and Keri had never held a social gathering for squeakers, your guess might have been as good as mine.
The convention was held at a sprawling church in the north metro. It's our local version of the PTL Club, evidently. It's a well funded ministry that has yet to build a theme park, but that's probably next. I have no idea who plays the role of Tammy Faye Baker/Messner, but the figurehead of the ministry sure fills his pews, and the coffers. The church is a sprawling campus with all sorts of amenities. And although I didn't see the "church," I've seen it, on local television. This church has a Sunday program broadcast locally, which I think is live. And the production is slick, from what little I've seen of it on TV. This is no community access cable operation. The king of the castle has been scrutinized for the lavishness, of both his church and his lifestyle, and if I recall correctly, he hasn't shied away from the fact he lives extravagantly. It's a fascinating story, for another day, perhaps. I've read about the church, and I'd like to know more about it.
Keri is a member of this church, so she was able to secure a large conference room with tables to seat 250 of us. We all checked in upon arrival, receiving a swag bag with coupons that were of little value to me, unfortunately. If you brought donations for a local food shelf, they were collected at the door, and you received up to 15 raffle tickets for the prize drawing. My girlfriend and I donated about 40 items, including several cans of fruits and vegetables, several bottles of hot sauce, several cans of dog food, several peanut butter cups, four tubes of toothpaste, a box of girl scout cookies and a pack of disposable razors.
I'm sure many of us squeakers donated things we got free, or nearly free, at the grocery store. Toothpaste is easy to get free, or next to free, and it's easy to get lots of it. I bet there were hundreds of tubes of toothpaste in those bags.
I donated a bunch of hot sauce because I got them all free with a coupon from the Sunday paper. It's not the most logical thing to donate to a food shelf, but if people need help buying groceries, there's a good chance they'd like a condiment for their food, be it ketchup, mustard or hot sauce.
The dog food might seem like another illogical choice, but some food shelves take pet food. Just because you can't afford groceries and rent doesn't mean you don't have a pet. If people with pets lost their job and started getting behind on their bills, should they immediately get rid of the family dog? Pets are part of the family for many, and when I had a chance to get eight cans of dog food free, I did, knowing I'd donate them to a food shelf.
I stock up on cheap razors and deodorant whenever I can. I've recently amassed a good number of nice razors, some of which are disposable. I paid a buck for each pack of the disposables, and I included one in the bag. Did I need to in order to reach the 30 items necessary for us to obtain the maximum number of raffle tickets? No, but I didn't want to simply donate free stuff I had no use for. I wanted to include a few things that were of value to me.
I would have gladly eaten the eight packages of peanut butter cups I donated. If they weren't free, I paid 10 cents or less for each package. Without Keri's website, I never would have figured out how to get them for little or nothing using coupons, so instead of keeping them, I donated them. Just because you're broke doesn't mean you have no interest in a candy treat once in a while. And I'll bet it's harder to justify spending 89 cents on candy at Walgreens when your income is zero. I hope those peanut butter cups brighten up the day for eight people.
The girl scout cookies cost me $3.50. There was no coupon for them. I buy them and eat them each year. I didn't have to donate a box, but again, just because you're broke, does that mean you shouldn't enjoy a girl scout cookie? It wasn't exactly a grand gesture on my part, but I wanted to do more than donate 30 items that were obtained for next to nothing. It may not matter to the people who receive groceries from their local food shelf, but it mattered to me.