Purchases of commissary gift cards spike to support Coast Guardsmen during shutdown

by Kevin L. Robinson
DeCA Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. – Commissaries and Navy Exchanges (NEXs) experienced a surge of commissary gift card purchases to help support Coast Guardsmen and their families during the recent government shutdown.

The 35-day shutdown, which ended Jan. 25 with a continuing resolution through Feb. 15, affected more than 40,000 active-duty Coast Guardsmen, who hadn’t been paid since the end of December. The Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, one of the agencies left unfunded during the shutdown.

“Taking care of our own is more than a slogan for the military community,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, special DOD assistant for commissary operations. Bianchi is also dual-hatted as the director and CEO of the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM). “I’m proud that folks thought to use commissary gift cards to help support Coast Guard families over the past few weeks.”

That support was manifested through thousands of dollars of commissary gift cards sold in recent days at commissaries and NEXs reportedly bound for Coast Guard patrons, said Bob Bunch, manager of the Defense Commissary Agency’s gift card program.

Military resale operations like the commissary at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, or the NEXs at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, and in the San Diego area, rushed reorders for commissary gift cards because their inventory was depleted thanks to the buying surge for the Coast Guard.

“Over the course of 21 weeks, NEXs averaged selling over 35 DeCA gift cards at about $2,534 per week,” Bunch said. “For the week of 14-21 January, NEX stores alone sold 183 cards at $15,438. My contacts stated that the uptick was due to units and others purchasing cards to assist Coast Guard families.”   

At the Key West Commissary, Deymar Mayor, a store worker responsible for keeping his store stocked with commissary gift cards, said in the week prior to Jan. 25, they had a number of patrons request large quantities of gift cards, totaling over $4,500. On Jan. 25 alone, he said patrons bought $1,000 worth of cards for Coast Guard patrons.

“They all expressed that they were going to be given to the Coast Guard families affected by the government shutdown,” Mayor said. “I personally believe that the gift of a commissary gift card will make a huge impact for the families receiving them. Not only can they purchase groceries but they can also shop our selection of baby essentials, everyday health and hygiene products, pet care and more.

“Our community has really come together during this difficult time, and I think that our commissary plays a huge role,” he said.

Since June 4, 2018, NEXCOM and DeCA have teamed up to sell commissary gift cards at 43 NEX locations. Since Oct. 9, the NEX gift cards have been available in commissaries on Navy bases.

“This initiative is another example of the military resale community partnering to offer our patrons the best that the installation has to offer for our community,” Bianchi said. “Collaborative efforts such as this showcase the value of the installation as the No. 1 destination to best serve our service members and their families.”

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