By: John Falkenbury, USO of North Carolina president and CEO
Bagpipes. Colors. Uniforms. Service Anthems. These mark the beginning of the USO of North Carolina’s Salute to Freedom Gala each year. The gala is an opportunity for North Carolinians to come together in support of America’s service members and military families. Military members share stories of heroism and leadership, and attendees learn about how their support is making an impact on the lives of those who serve. It’s safe to say that the gala is my favorite night of the year. You can feel the Patriotism across the room, and I am so proud to be part of such a special evening.
October 6, 2018, our team hosted the 14th Annual Salute to Freedom Gala at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham, North Carolina. Presented by Community Coffee for the 4th consecutive year, the event raised more than $300,000 for our military.
As Community Coffee approached its 100th anniversary, our team knew that we wanted to make a special presentation to recognize the company’s outstanding effort to partner with the USO of North Carolina and help strengthen those who serve. We were honored to host two generations of the Saurage family – Mr. Matt Saurage, and his mother Donna, along with the Community Coffee team. We presented Matt Saurage with a one-of-a-kind shadow box, highlighting the history of our partnership and all of the good that has come from it.
Saurage took the stage and had one, strong and inspiring message for military members in the audience: “I respect and thank you for what you do in honor of our flag, for your service to our community and our country.”
Guests enjoyed music, dinner and dessert accompanied by Community Coffee’s signature dark roast coffee, but most importantly, heard the stories of six outstanding service members from each branch of our military. Each service member was nominated by their command to be recognized for going above and beyond in and out of uniform. From volunteering at home and overseas, to jumping into action in emergencies, and even standing in the face of danger to save their brothers and sisters in arms - these service members stories reflected the upmost values of our military.
They are the reason that the gala is so important. They are the reason that the USO of North Carolina and Community Coffee continue to team up year after year to make sure that we connect those service members to family, home and country.
Outside of the gala, Community Coffee is the “official coffee of the USO of North Carolina,” providing coffee to 11 locations across the state. Additional support includes holiday programs for service members and their families to boost morale during a season that can mean separation for many military members that cannot return home for the holidays.
Most recently, the Community Coffee trolley deployed with the USO of North Carolina Mobile Center in support of National Guard service members that were working disaster relief after Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Soldier’s faces lit up every time that they saw the trolley and realized that they were about to receive a cup of warm, real coffee, rather than what was provided in their MREs (Meals Ready to Eat).
Community Coffee customers carry on that commitment year round by participating in the military match program, which reminds service members that they are missed, loved and respected.
As we reflect on an amazing year of partnership, and an amazing evening recognizing those who serve, we are so grateful for the kindness, support, and touch of home made possible by the Community Coffee team and its customers. We are honored that you have chosen us as part of the community you serve. Thank you for being the Force Behind the Forces!