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Dove coupon program benefits overseas military families. Here's how you can help.

By JIM BOWLING | Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill. | Published: September 10, 2018

DECATUR (Tribune News Service) — Volunteers from Dove Inc.’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program have been clipping and collecting manufacturers' coupons for nearly six years, not so they can save themselves money, but for military families stationed overseas.

“They drop them in our mailbox, they drop them at our backdoor,” said Charlie Gillaspie, RSVP director. “Sometimes, they come in envelopes. We just get them from people who have saved their coupons.”

They get the coupons from individuals and groups, many they don’t even know.

“Most of the time we don’t know where they come from, they just show up,” said Sandy Harrison, program specialist.

Since the beginning of 2018, the program has sent 1.9 million coupons to military families, and the goal is 2 million by the end of this year. Volunteers collect manufacturers coupons by dates.

“They can use them overseas up to six months past the expiration date,” Gillaspie said. “We ask that it not be given to us more than a month after it has expired.”

Dove Inc. ships boxes full of coupons through military programs, which distribute the coupons to military families. Volunteers pack the coupons into a box and ship them to military bases for $17.40 per box, each of which can hold up to 25,000 coupons.

The process of preparing the coupons can take more than a month, and shipment could take longer, but, “that leaves them a good four months before they expire,” Gillaspie said.

Dove Inc. volunteers have received responses from the military families thanking them for the financial help. Gillaspie said they sometimes get letters or certificates of appreciation.

The RSVP volunteers said they enjoy preparing the coupons for shipment.

Vera Bright of Clinton collects donated coupons from the DeWitt County Dove office as well as other locations. She can clip and organize a 2-inch high stack during her free time, she said.

“So when they come back here, all they have to do is put them in the boxes,” Bright said. “They know they’ve all been sorted and cut.”

Bright organizes the product coupons by month, and is currently sorting through coupons dated August or newer. The type of item doesn’t matter, though RSVP is unable to accept store or restaurant coupons.

The ladies are happy to do the simple chore of clipping coupons.

“It helps the service men and women,” Bright said. “They don’t have access to them over there.”

Wanda Bollhorst has thumbed through many coupons preparing them for shipment.

“Sometimes I can cut for about two or three hours,” Bollhorst said. “Then I have to quit, but then I start all over again.”

Volunteers accept donated coupons from various contributors, including church groups, newspapers, grocery stores and families.

“You’d be surprised how many I can get from people just walking in to our (church) class,” Bollhorst said.

Gillaspie was a military wife, and her son is currently in the Marine Corps. She said military families are able to use coupons in the stores that are available to them overseas.

“They just can’t get the coupons,” she said.

The prices are often higher overseas than in the United States, and the variety of brand names are limited.

“But this helps them to save money, and any little bit helps,” Gillaspie said.

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©2018 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

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