KERRVILLE, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Manufacturer’s coupons are a handy way to save money, but they can expire before being used.
Getting rid of unwanted ones also can be a chore, but retired Air Force Maj. Ted Whittier and his wife, Betty, have found a positive way to handle that problem.
The Kerrville couple bundles up their spares with others dropped off at the Kerrville Police Department and sends them to the Overseas Coupon Program, a Missouri-based group that forwards them to military personnel deployed overseas.
“We get them to give us any coupons that they want to give us,” Ted Whittier said. “We are happy to have the sheets from the newspaper after you take out what you want. That’s probably the most efficient way to do it. There are some folks that are nice enough to cut everything else.”
The coupons are sorted into two categories: human food and non-food, including pet food, medications and other necessities.
Restaurant coupons and assistance items, including vouchers or food stamps, aren’t accepted.
Donations are not tax-deductible; the Whittiers and other donors pay for postage.
The program also allows individual donors to directly send items to the OCP group.
Sorted coupons should be placed into baggies; don’t use paperclips or rubber bands.
Those sending packets directly to the group should itemize coupons by face value or using a weight conversion system.
The Whittiers began donating coupons in 2009 and resumed the practice in 2014 after a three-year break.
“Betty wrote down the face value of all the coupons, so we had a factor for converting the weight into dollars,” Whittier said. “In that time, we estimate that we’ve sent $320,302 worth of them.”
Donors may pick which base they wish to assist from a list in Japan, Europe, Osan, Korea and Incirlik, Turkey.
The Whittiers support Kadena Air Force Base, where Ted Whittier was stationed as an intelligence officer.
In a letter, Thomas D. Detterman of Kadena’s Airman and Family Readiness Center thanked donors for assisting 5,000 on the base, in addition to thousands of single personnel.
“Please continue to send the coupons, as they are in high demand and are greatly appreciated by everyone who benefits,” Detterman wrote.
Shopping in on-base commissaries (grocery stores) and PX and BXs, or department stores, used to be cheaper than off-base shopping, but those options have become more expensive in recent years, straining military pay.
“There was a time when the exchange and the commissary were operated totally at cost, and the expense of the overhead was funded by the government,” Whittier said. “Plus, there was a lot of pushback over the years about commercial competition. Typically, we try to send them about every six weeks to two months. Manufacturers are gracious about allowing them to use the coupons up to six months after the expiration date. We try to get them going within two months, so they’ll have at least four months grace period.”
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