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Send unneeded coupons to military families

It's spring, which means it's time to organize your coupons.

After you clip, sort and file, coupon shoppers are typically left with a pile of expired coupons and another stack of coupons that are still current but are for products they'll never buy.

Before you toss them into your trash or recycle bins, consider shipping them to military families. Your efforts just might help the families of soldiers.

While the expired coupons can be used by military personnel shopping on bases overseas, your unwanted current coupons can be sent to soldiers and their families serving on bases in the United States.

A quick Web search yields numerous coupon donation programs. Two of the more organized programs are run by the national coupon site Coupon Cabin and the military service organization Support Our Troops. Both accept expired and current coupons but request that folks sort the coupons and send them to different addresses.

That's important, because military families stationed in the United States are bound by the same couponing restrictions as civilians and can use only current coupons that have not expired.

The enthusiasm for sending coupons to the troops is strong. Since Coupon Cabin began shipping coupons to the military last fall, it has received more than 6,300 packages of coupons at its Indiana headquarters. They have come from nearly 2,200 ZIP codes.

Coupon Cabin sends coupons to seven bases. The expired coupons go to five bases in Germany. The current coupons are sent to Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

"The outpouring has been overwhelming," said Tim Fagan, chief operating officer for Coupon Cabin.

At Fort Bragg, Volunteer Services branch manager Catherine Mansfield said the coupons are popular and much appreciated. "We have regulars who come every week asking, 'Where are the coupons?' " she said.

But since time is of the essence with current coupons -- and so many coupons these days have short expiration dates -- many of the coupons received have been expired.

To cut the amount of lag time caused by shipping, Mansfield said, coupon clippers are welcome to send their extra in-date coupons directly to Fort Bragg.

If you'd like to send your extra current coupons directly to Fort Bragg, address your envelopes marked "coupons" to: Army Community Services, Attention: Volunteer Services, 2175 Reilly Road, Stop A, Fort Bragg, NC 28310.

If you'd like to send your coupons through Coupon Cabin or Support Our Troops, visit www.couponcabin.com or www.supportourtroops.org.

Expired coupons should be no more than 90 days out of date to allow for shipping time to overseas bases. On overseas bases only, coupons can be used up to six months over expiration.