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Mideast edition, Sunday, July 29, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — Online shoppers can use their purchases to help earn gift certificates for troops through a new Web site called MyTroops.com.

Company founder Mitch Wander, a government contractor who runs the site on the side, said he got the idea during his tour in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 as an Army reservist.

“There [were] so many supporters — friends, community members — saying what more can we do, what more can we do, and eventually people saying, what can we get for you?” he said.

Online shoppers must register on the site and can accrue points by making purchases from one of the 372 merchants affiliated with MyTroops. Wander said the company earns a small commission for every purchase.

Shoppers then assign those points to troops registered on the Web site. It takes 1,600 points to earn a $10 gift certificate and 4,000 points to earn a $25 gift certificate, Wander said.

The amount of points online shoppers accrue per purchase varies with the merchant. For example, 1-800-Flowers.com gives online shoppers 10 points for every dollar spent.

And while all the points are universal to all participating merchants, the gift certificates are not, Wander said. So far, 89 of the participating stores offer $10 gift certificates, and 144 others stores offer $25 gift certificates.

“Many of the merchants who do not offer gift certificates are those types that you would expect not to do so — insurance, home improvement and business equipment,” he said.

Wander said so far, about 30 troops have been registered on the MyTroops Web site since January; only one has redeemed a gift certificate.

The Web site is designed to be accessible for troops with low- bandwidth Internet connections, Wander said.

For more information, visit the site at www.MyTroops.com.


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