Hugs for Our Soldiers is a volunteer-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has been supporting our troops since 2003. Our Federal Tax ID number is 26-3486044.
Through the help of many, HUGS sends care packages to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our Adopt-A-Soldier program gives you the opportunity to care for a soldier or unit on a one-on-one basis, and it affords our soldiers an avenue to reach out to those who want to support them. We offer many programs, so please explore each one to see how you can get involved.
HUGS supports all branches of service.
"History of Hugs"
When Operation: Iraqi Freedom began in 2003, our Founder, Kathy Orcutt, and her family were living in Duluth, Georgia. She, like many others, wanted to show her support of our troops in harm's way. Kathy's church had just created a Support Our Troops program, which she immediately became an integral part of.
Being a longtime volunteer of her local festival, Kathy approached Duluth Fall Festival with the idea of having troops march in the parade and honoring them during Opening Ceremonies. Seeing that patriotism flows strong throughout this community, it was only natural that the committee said, "Absolutely!" So in September, 2003, the Soldiers of the 2-69AR from Fort Benning, Georgia, who had just returned home from Operation Iraqi Freedom One, joined the Festival. Thanks to supporters Russ and Melanie Sheldon the tradition of bringing soldiers to this annual festival continues to this day.
In 2004, Kathy and her family moved to Tennessee. The seed was planted there and the support began to grow. The decision was made to incorporate as a nonprofit organization. By becoming a member of the Department of Defense's America Supports You program, the doors were opened for people from across our nation to become involved in Hugs for Our Soldiers.
Board of Director, Russ Sheldon, has been an integral part of HUGS since 2005. He served in the United States Army from 1972-74 and is very proud of our military men and women. Russ is dedicated to bringing troops to Duluth Fall Festival each year for them to be honored and thanked and given the red carpet treatment they so well deserve. Russ also serves as the Director of our Georgia Chapter.
In 2007, Pamela DuBose traveled from Florida to Georgia to help some of her friends during Duluth Fall Festival. She learned that HUGS had a booth there in order to promote awareness of supporting our troops. With Pam’s warm and caring heart for our military men and women, she immediately volunteered to help. She was hooked instantly and by the time the weekend was over, Pam expressed her desire to introduce HUGS to her home state of Florida. Pam is now Vice-President of Hugs for Our Soldiers and Director of the Florida Chapter.
In 2008, Andy Frederick (Army retiree) and Priscilla Frederick (Marine retiree) were next to come onboard as dedicated volunteers. Priscilla is now the Director of our Adopt-A-Soldier program and Andy is ready to answer the volunteer call whenever it is made.
Marty Butera, wife of a retired Marine and mother of an active-duty Army son, joined HUGS in 2008. She is the Director of our Birthday Card program and also is a valuable liaison to the Retired Military Club in her area.
Board of Director, Sue Martin, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and a Lady Vol to boot. Sue played on Pat Summitt's first team, as well as Ms. Summitt's first Final Four Team. Sue is a 28-year veteran teacher and basketball coach. She initially became involved in HUGS in 2004 by introducing our Christmas for Soldiers program to her school. She has served as the liaison between HUGS and Alcoa Middle School ever since and is now serving her third term as a Board of Director of our organization.
Linda Scharf developed our Helping Hands Committee in 2010. This committee of volunteers helps our headquarters sort donated items and is the "hands" of putting care packages together for our troops.
Andrea Johnson is our current Helping Hands Coordinator here at headquarters. She is a proud "military mom". Both her daughter and son serve in the Army.
Colleen Edson and her husband, Carl, a Marine during the Vietnam era, have been strong supporters and volunteers for several years. Colleen has spearheaded several local fundraisers that help support the financial demand of shipping care packages to our troops. She is currently the President of Hugs for Our Soldiers.