New student group collects items for soldiers abroad

by Bryce Haugen

College Republicans Vice Chairman Tony Richter said he wanted to transcend partisanship after a divisive election season.

Inspired by a speech from Staff Sgt. Andy Davis, who talked about his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, Richter started a nonpartisan student group to provide some of the comforts of home to deployed U.S. soldiers.

“It’s not only a way to bridge the gap between ideologies on campus, but to pay respect to those willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy,” said Richter, an accounting sophomore.

Though it doesn’t become an official student group until this week, Comfort for Courage has already begun collecting goods for active-duty soldiers. In late November, Richter and approximately 35 other students went door to door in Woodbury, Minn., gathering more than half a ton’s worth of donations.

“We feel we can do 10 times that,” Richter said.

Comforts of home

During its Woodbury drive, the group collected a broad array of goods to satisfy soldiers’ needs and wants.

Some items in the 12-pound packages, which are “chock-full of goodies,” include playing cards, pens, paper and snack foods, said Richter, who will be a co-chairman for the group.

“It’s just stuff they can use to get their mind off being away from their families,” he said. “Anything that will bring a smile to someone’s face.”

Care packages mean a lot to active-duty soldiers, said Davis, a political science and journalism student who served in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

“It’s an unbelievable morale-builder,” said Davis, who will

be the group’s other co-chairman.

The 23-year-old, who now balances classes with a defense consulting job, said he received gifts at least once a month duiing his tours.

Davis said Comfort for Courage will provide an efficient way for University students to support the troops.

“By us doing the legwork, we provide all those people who want to do something but don’t know how the opportunity,” he said.

Thinking big

The group has received support from area businesses, Davis said.

Richter said Comfort for Courage hopes to eventually become an official nonprofit organization so it can accept large monetary donations.

“We have a lot of organizations in the wings,” he said.

Richter said the group will aggressively recruit members and collect more goods on campus and in local communities.

Comfort for Courage is also looking to team with different student organizations and local defense contractors for future projects, said entrepreneurial studies and finance senior Rob Fuller, who will be the group’s treasurer.

Group leaders stressed the bipartisanship of the efforts.

Though many group members are Republicans, Fuller said, supporting troops is more important than ideology.

“We’re pro-middle-of-the-road,” he said. “It’s not Democrat, it’s not Republican; it’s just American.”