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Donating coupons: a different way to help troops overseas

Coupon donations are being taken at L.E. Phillips Senior Center, St. Matthew's Lutheran Church and the American Legion on Water Street in Eau Claire.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- "I cut and sort and tally," said Mary Wheeler.

You could call Wheeler a multi-tasker. Cut after cut, she is clipping coupons that will help military members and their families overseas save money.

It is her way of giving back. The coupons all have an expiration date in the U.S. but overseas at U.S. military bases the coupons are good for an extra six months.

"Any kind of Sunday coupons out of the newspaper," she said.

So long as they are manufacturer coupons. It is a project Wheeler has been working on for ten years. She has gotten help from her church, the American Legion and now wants to get the word out to the community.

"By doing this you offset some of their costs and supplement their income," said Martin Boire with Support Our Troops.org.

Boire's non-profit, based in Florida, helps support military members and their families with care packages and kids camps. It also accepts coupons or "troopons" for soldiers.

"As people send them to us we process them, inspect them, repackage them and basically act as gatekeepers between commissaries around the world to make sure they have the right kind they need," he said.

He says their numbers shows 95% of the coupons get used. Last year his group received $11 million dollars’ worth of coupons for food, household goods, baby items and pet supplies. And he says it only costs about $15 to ship $20,000 worth of coupons.

"I didn't cut that very straight but that's okay," Wheeler said as she cut coupons.

She says her effort is approaching 140 pounds of coupons sent already this year. For her the value is not just in the numbers but in the effect.

"It warms my heart," she said.

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