Peoria Journal Star
August 28, 2006
Peoria area scores high in gifts to troops
Region ranks seventh in nation among metro areas in sending gift
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The generosity and patriotism of
Peoria residents - and a local promotional effort - were enough to
place the city well above several much bigger metropolitan areas
in sending gift certificates to service members in Iraq and
A survey by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service showed the
Peoria-Bloomington area seventh in the nation in the number of
exchange gift certificates sent to the deployed service personnel
- ahead of such large cities as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
and Los Angeles.
The survey showed 302 of the gift certificates came from the
area, with 300 of those produced by a drive staged by the JMP
Radio Group and the Uftring automobile dealers in Peoria,
according to Cheryl Bunn, sales manager for the radio group.
That effort was far behind the leader, Dallas, with a total of
2,580 gifts, and the second-place city, New York, with 923. But it
was right up there with Washington, D.C.; Hartford, Conn.;
Sacramento, Calif.; and Cleveland, which provided from 327 to 307
gifts. And it was ahead of 131 other metropolitan areas on the
The gift certificates are a key part of the exchange system's
"Gifts from the Homefront" program to support troops in the combat
The certificate effort was launched in 2003 in response to a
Defense Department order banning the acceptance of gift packages
sent to service members overseas, because of security concerns,
exchange system spokesman Judd Anstey said.
"This really takes away the danger of not knowing the sender,"
Anstey said. "It's safe and efficient - efficient because the
Gatorade, cameras and other items are already there" in the 52
exchange stores the Army-Air Force system operates in Iraq,
Afghanistan and other countries in that region where large numbers
of U.S. service members are deployed, he said.
The Army-Air Force system also serves the Marines and sailors
in the region.
The program has produced 18,977 certificates with a total value
In addition to avoiding the security concerns, the gift
certificates enable the service members to buy what they want or
need and saves the high mailing cost, Anstey said.
Bunn said they choose the gift certificates instead of sending
packages because of that high postage. "It's a great program. I
suggest if anyone wants to contribute to the troops, that's the
way they do it."
JMP, which owns WMBD and several other radio stations, and
Uftring ran their solicitation last November and December and
raised $15,000, which bought 300 gift certificates worth $50 each,
Anstey said the gift cards can be in value from $5 to $50 and
can be sent to a specific service member or left undesignated, in
which case the exchange system provides them to the Red Cross or
other charitable organizations to distribute.