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Colorado Springs Charity Wants Donors to Eat like Soldiers

  • Meals, Ready to Eat
  • Prototype pizza slices sit in MRE packets at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, in Natick, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Soldier prepares his MRE.

The Home Front Cares is hoping a few hundred more people in the Pikes Peak region want to eat like a soldier as it continues a fundraising campaign that delivers military meals.

The charity began deliver prepackaged military chow, called "Meal, Ready to Eat," or MRE, in November. It turns out the Defense Department food may be more popular with civilians than it is for folks in uniform, who have derisively called the packaged dinners "Meal, Rejected by Ethiopians."

"People love the concept; that's why we decided to continue," said George Hayward, Home Front's communications manager who personally delivered many of the 600 meals sold so far.

The fundraising boost from the themed lunches comes as Home Front struggles with growing demand for its services. The charity was founded in 2003 to help the families of deployed troops. As wars continued, the charity extended its reach to veterans. Last year, Home Front opened its doors to veterans in Denver.

The charity delivers aid in the simplest fashion: Cash.

In 13 years, Home Front has handed out $7.6 million to help military families and veterans cover basic needs from rent and utilities to car repairs.

"It's always a challenge to meet those needs," said Home Front executive director April Speake.

The charity now is seeing expanding demand for help from veterans and active-duty troops. In the Pikes Peak region, Fort Carson has sent its helicopter brigade and infantry troops to Afghanistan in recent weeks, and this month, airmen from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base departed for Afghanistan duty.

"There's only limited resources in this community," Speake said. "We have to try some of the more creative aspects of fundraising."

MREs have given the charity that creative spark, Speake said.

Business groups have brought them in by the truckload for corporate meals, with executives experiencing a small piece of military life as they eat a meal that comes in a plastic pouch.

During the bigger gatherings, the executives get a pitch on the homegrown military charity and what it does for troops and veterans.

Speake said that small act of eating in solidarity with the military is important these days.

Even in Colorado Springs, people have been quick to forget that local troops are still risking their lives overseas.

"Now more than ever we need to show them that support," she said. "There's no cheering section for them now."

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