The HUGS Project of Elkhart

Pepsi Refresh WSBT

By Ed Ernstes (
There's a saying — "No good deed goes unpunished." But in the case of this story, it's more like "several good deeds could be rewarded." A local non-profit group working to boost the morale of soldiers overseas is in line to win $25,000.
“Although the contest was hard, and we finally got there, now the work really begins," said Carole West with the HUGS Project of Elkhart County.
West helps make cooling neckties to send to troops in the Middle East.
 “And those affectionately are what we call ‘hugs,’ because they go around the neck of soldiers, underneath their uniforms, to keep them cool in the desert heat," West said.
Combine the neckties with care packages, all from donations and volunteers, and that potentially adds up to a $25,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project.
“In winning the $25,000, that just means our volunteers are going to be working harder,” West said. “We had to very specifically detail how we would use that $25,000 from Pepsi, so every penny will go to the soldiers in the Middle East.
Now the grant money that they have won will be put to very good use. It will allow them to ship more of the hugs, get their hands on and collect more personal care items for shipping and also cover the shipping costs that grow every day."
The payoff for the group? Thank you letters from the troops.
“Its’ just a blessing to be able to get involved in this and do something for them, because they are risking their lives for us all,” volunteer Nancy Kelly said.
Official word on the grant will come on January 23. As the group expands its work at River Oaks Church, it could use more supplies, volunteers and a warehouse
here for more information.