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Woman 'Coins' Military Personnel To Show Appreciation


The Tampa Tribune


Published: December 26, 2007


Deb Benson is one grateful American.


In fact, she's so thankful that she recently launched a creative nonprofit organization named "Grateful American Coin," which mints commemorative coins to be given to armed service professionals, along with a thank you for serving this nation.


"People in Brandon can support by getting coins," she said, "by thanking service personnel, and by telling people about it."


Proceeds from the sale of the coins after manufacturing and other production expenses, roughly one-half the cost of each coin, go to the VetDogs Foundation to help veterans live with dignity and independence by using guide dogs, service dogs and innovative technologies.


"There are a lot of coins out there for various reasons," Benson said. "This is not an absolutely original idea. What's original is the coin we designed, and how the net proceeds are used."


With so many active and retired military families living locally, it's easy to see how Benson's idea can affect the community.


What really drives the initiative is personal contact.


"The moment I 'coin' somebody is amazing," Benson said. "It's a high, and when I gave my first one I was hooked. I carry a minimum of two wherever I go. I always come back without them."


Benson, who lives and operates the nonprofit group in Odessa, recalled when her mother took her sons - Brock, 6, and Max, 4, - to a busy Subway sandwich shop for lunch.


"Brock saw a soldier and wanted to give him a coin," Benson said. "The soldier said, 'Is that your Daddy's?' My son said, 'It's for you. Thanks for protecting us.'"


Brock offered to shake hands, but the soldier said, "Can I give you a hug?"


Then Max walks up and said, 'Thank you for getting the bad guys,'" she said. "The soldier said, 'May I give you a hug?' So my mom went up to the soldier and said, 'May I give you a hug?'


"The lady making sandwiches had tears streaming down her face," Benson said. "So did another woman in line. It was a nice moment. That's what it's all about."


Benson can't hide her passion. "I'm just a mom trying to do the right thing with my kids," she said. "It's about expressing our thanks."


Raised in Tampa, Benson's ambition was to be a sportscaster. After graduating from Leto High School, she shifted gears and went into English literature. By the time she graduated from the University of South Florida in 1993, she was working with Verizon Wireless. Benson has been with the company for 18 years and now works as a project manager.


Her career has taken her to Jackson, Tenn., then Nashville, Argentina, Atlanta and then back to Tampa in 2001.


"I met my husband computer programmer Bill Benson in Atlanta. He's 6-foot-eight and very easy to spot!"


Family ties brought the couple back to Tampa.


"My grandfather Priede worked in Ybor City as a cigar factory lector," Benson said. "Both my parents graduated from the old Jefferson High School."


Grateful American Coin emerged from Benson's deep appreciation for freedom and a desire to teach her children.


"I wanted to help our kids learn a sense of patriotism and freedom," she said. "It's something that's kind of lost with my generation."


Grateful American Coin was officially incorporated as a nonprofit group in November.


"We have sold 544 in the first three weeks," Benson said. "I'd love to be able to give VetDogs a big check. Maybe they can say this bought a dog for this soldier. Trained dogs can be as much as $50,000."


Check out "Grateful American Coin" at www.grateful americancoin.org




Story from: http://brandonnews2.tbo.com/content/2007/d...-apprecia/?news


Grateful American Coin website is at: http://www.gratefulamericancoin.org/default.aspx

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