Denise Brna-Kusky’s coupons don’t just save money.
They help save animals’ lives.
The Canton Township resident has always had a knack for finding a bargain, but about 10 years ago she discovered extreme couponing.
Now, Kusky uses her coupon-stacking skills to provide no-kill animal shelters with essentials like dog food, shampoo, blankets, paper towels, laundry detergent and dryer sheets.
In 2010, Kusky launched Chessie’s Paws of Hope and Love Ministry, a nonprofit that provides supplies and financial support to animal shelters in Southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Appalachia.
For her efforts to provide supplies to no-kill animal shelters, Kusky has been selected as the Observer-Reporter’s ExtraORdinary People recipient for January.
Kusky, 53, estimates she and her husband, Michael, have donated more than $20,000 worth of supplies to local and Appalachian-area animal shelters since 2010.
“I do believe I have a calling to do this. I love my animals, and I think of it as my stewardship,” said Kusky, who owns a German shepherd mix, Tess, who was rescued as a puppy following Hurricane Katrina.
Kusky, a former librarian who was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 1990, researches no-kill animal shelters online and then contacts the shelters to determine what supplies they need.
“Denise, God bless her. It is amazing what does,” said Cathy Reed-Vanatta, a former board member of the Marion County Humane Society in Fairmont, W.Va., the first animal shelter to which Kusky donated. “By her extreme couponing, the amount of food, supplies and blankets she’s supplied us with is incredible. Her trips here were just invaluable to us. She loves animals, and she’s got a gift. She has been a blessing to many shelters. She’s a wonderful person, very intelligent, kind and giving.”
Kusky said she got hooked on extreme couponing when the TLC program “Extreme Couponing” aired in 2010. But, she found her coupon-clipping skills had led her to accumulate stockpiles of stuff that she didn’t use, like Pop Tarts and candy.
She resolved to make extreme couponing work for a good cause in honor of a close friend, the late Rev. Hugh Walker, who served as rector at Christ Church Episcopal in Fairmont and was killed in an accident on Thanksgiving Day, 1996. Walker, Kusky said, had been a spiritual mentor.
“I looked around at all of the stuff I had stockpiled and I thought, ‘What am I going to do with this?’” Kusky said. “Then I saw all the dog food I had, and I got a voice in the back of my head that told me to contact the animal shelter in Fairmont, where he had lived, and that’s where it all began.”
She orders coupons from Daily Dimes, an online coupon company, and other websites, and over the years has learned how to save the money from couponing and reinvest it to keep the extreme savings going.
For example, last year she donated 700 bags of Snausages to the Marion County shelter after she snagged coupons from eBay and then bought the treats at a significant discount from local Dollar General and Family Dollar stores.
“We still laugh about that one,” said Kusky.
She also purchased 65 bottles of Dawn dish detergent from CVS Pharmacy at a steep discount.
Michael – who also has health issues and underwent a kidney transplant in 2008 for renal tubular acidosis – accompanies Kusky on shopping trips and is in charge of loading supplies into the couple’s truck for dropoff.
On Jan. 10, the pair drove to the Tucker County Animal Shelter in Parsons, W.Va., and delivered 150 pounds of Purina Dog Chow and toys.
Kusky also contributes to the Greene County Humane Society.
“There’s something special about somebody who contributes without expecting anything in return,” said Jane Gapen, executive director of the Greene County Humane Society. “The gift comes from her heart. Donations are what make us go. We’re a nonprofit, and we don’t get any money routinely from any government agency, so donations are what keep us alive. I think people like Denise, who love animals, keep us going because they understand how special animals are.”
Kusky, a graduate of Washington High School and California University of Pennsylvania, earned a masters degree in library science from Clarion University.
She plans to return to graduate school to study nonprofit management and write grants for no-kill animal shelters.
“I feel it’s my mission to help others in need,” said Kusky. “I realize how lucky and blessed I am, and this is what I am meant to do.”
As part of the ExtraORdinary People Award, Denise Brna-Kusky has been awarded $500 to give to the charity of her choice, underwritten by the Observer-Reporter and Range Resources. Kusky has chosen Orphans of the Storm, a no-kill animal shelter in Kittanning.