The HUGS Project of Elkhart

Pepsi Refresh eTruth

HUGS Project of Elkhart County gets $25K grant

by: Marlys Weaver
Posted: 1/6/2011 12:07:00 AM
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GOSHEN -- The dawning of the new year brought $25,000 to the HUGS Project of Elkhart County through the Pepsi Refresh Grant contest.
Since 2006, the local HUGS group has been making cooling neckties for soldiers, called "hugs" because they embrace the soldier's neck. They have sent almost 10,000 hugs over the last year, along with care packages filled with snacks and supplies and a hand-written note.

Carole West coordinated the group's Pepsi Refresh campaign.
"We have relied solely on donations to fund our work and to provide the other items that we include in our care packages, hygiene, snacks, games, magazines, etc," she said. "However the requests are far exceeding what we are receiving in donations and thus our quest for the $25,000 grant from Pepsi."
The group applied for the grant several times, but was not accepted into the contest until November's contest. That month, public votes moved it from 134th place to 15th. With a high placing, it was able to roll-over into December's competition.
"We started out strong and never quit working," West said. "We stayed high in the rankings all month long and ended on Dec. 31 at No. 5."
Groups must be in the top 10 to qualify for the $25,000 grant.
The Elkhart County group will use $7,500 to cover shipping costs, $4,700 to purchase materials for more hugs and $12,800 for care package items.
"Ultimately, we are serving America's finest, our men and women in uniform who defend our freedoms everyday," West said. "Our community, church, friends and family across the country voted for HUGS because they appreciate the troops and the sacrifice they make. Voting was the least we could do. Now the fun really begins as we rally to make more hugs and provide more care packages to our military."
West said that with their winnings, they'll be able to double what they have made before.
Anyone interested in learning more or helping out may contact Nancy Mast, HUGS Project of Elkhart County founder, at 293-2810. The group meets regularly the second and fourth Mondays of every month at River Oaks Community Church in Goshen from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Because of a winter break, its next meeting is Jan. 24.