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Darlene Harris
Darlene Harris (Lisa M. Novak / S&S)

(Many food and household product packages have a tiny coupon printed on top, bearing the Box Tops for Education logo. Each coupon is worth 10 cents toward school programs.Go to www.boxtops4education.com for more information.)

When did you start collecting these coupons?Someone at a school my daughter attended a few years ago had a ton of box tops and asked if I would help clip the coupons. It’s just grown from there. We call it our "trash for cash" program. It’s my passion because it’s free money for our school.

Do you go Dumpster diving?No, (laughs) but if I see someone throwing away a carton I’ll ask them to check and see if it has a Box Tops coupon.

What’s your goal this year?Last year I was really focused on getting the school involved, but this year I’m trying to get the whole community involved. So I’m definitely spending more time on it this year. Each school can earn $20,000 per year with this program, so I want to max out.

How many coupons would that take?200,000.

How long do you think that will take?Well, this past February we were up to $797. Hopefully a few weeks after school starts I’m hoping to be at $2,000.

Do you choose brands based on whether they have the coupon on the box?I have to admit, in some cases I do. I switched brands of tissues for the one that has the Box Tops coupon.

Do people send you coupons?When I went to Box Tops university…

There’s a Box Tops university?Yeah, it’s just a one-day forum, but we meet other coordinators, and swap ideas. They teach us ways to increase our earnings. After I went, I put out a request to get coupons from back home. I do get some envelopes in the mail with coupons from back home. We’re limited on what products are available here. Obviously in the States there are a lot more things available, and a lot more trash for cash programs.

It’s probably a good thing that you max out at 20,000 or you’d never have time for anything else.

I would love for us to reach it. With budget cuts, schools can’t afford to just buy things for all the programs they want. This is free money. We’re not asking people to buy this stuff, just to give us the coupons off the boxes they do buy. If they don’t, it’s just going to get thrown away.

Interview conducted by Lisa Novak. Box Tops for Education is a trademark of General Mills, Inc. Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to: news@estripes.osd.mil

Name: Darlene HarrisAge: 38

Job:Naples Elementary School PTA president

Claim to fame: Coordinator, Box Tops For Education, Naples Elementary School

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