East Dundee business owners Roger and Diane Ahrens were not looking for recognition when they began "Operation Sweettooth" eight years ago.
They wanted to quietly send cookies to U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, after they started their mission, word spread of their benevolence, and media coverage followed. This summer, the accolades and the project are continuing.
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The owners of the Piece-A-Cake Bakery on North River Street were named Humanitarians of the Year by members of the Illinois' Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Roger said the notice was not necessary, and his wife called it humbling.
"We're both honored to have received it," Diane said. "It's always nice to be recognized."
The couple started "Operation Sweettooth" to encourage and support the military men and women who are fighting on foreign soils. Both were U.S. Marines and know the importance of receiving packages filled with homemade treats from home.
So far, they have sent six tons of sugar and chocolate chip cookies and Rice Krispie Treats. They began when the fighting started in Iraq, and they expanded the scope of their project when it began in Afghanistan.
The families of the soldiers order the treats and are asked to donate money toward the cost of postage. The Ahrens donate their time and material. They individually wrap each cookie and send them in batches of three or four dozen so the soldiers can share them with their friends.
Members of the Tri-Cities Evergreen VFW Post 2298 in West Dundee nominated the couple for the award.
"DeLoris Doederlein got the ball rolling on this. She filed the paperwork and did all the legwork," said Erick Seals, commander of the local post. "Roger and Diane do a tremendous amount of work for the veterans."
Doederlein is a member of the post's ladies auxiliary.
These days, Roger and Diane send their treats to soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and men and women recuperating in military hospitals, such as Landstuhl in Germany.
They have vowed to continue sending the cookies as long as American troops are fighting in foreign lands.
"We were surprised when we heard we were nominated for the award," Diane said. "We definitely weren't expecting it."
For details on Operation Sweettooth, visit pieceacakebakery.net.