LA GRANGE – Jean and Bruce Kuhn wanted to start a fun promotion at their Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store that would benefit U.S. soldiers stationed overseas.
So, they started sending fudge. Lots of fudge.
Eight years ago, the couple decided to donate a pound of fudge to soldiers for every pound purchased by customers at their store in July. They ship the rich treats via Lisle-based Operation Support our Troops – America and time it so the fudge arrives around the holidays. In return, they ask for notes or photos of the soldiers enjoying their fudge. Jean Kuhn remembers the first letter.
"I just sobbed,” she said.
One soldier sent the Kuhns two American flags that flew over Afghanistan attached to a Chinook helicopter from the 7-101st Aviation Battalion. Last year, a group of soldiers sent a video of themselves enjoying the fudge.
Since Fudge for Soldiers started, the store has sent nearly 3,000 pounds of fudge overseas, primarily to soldiers in Afghanistan, where the Kuhns’ nephew was stationed before returning recently. Three years ago, Rocky Mountain adopted the promotion nationally, and last year more than 60 franchise locations set about 8,000 pounds of fudge.
"A lot of them don't necessarily have family or friends that can send them care packages,” said Kelsea Serrato, Rocky Mountain’s national marketing manager of troops stationed overseas. “[Fudge] is a taste of home. It’s something really traditionally American.”
It’s also shipping-friendly: Fudge doesn’t melt until it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
"It'll get a little soft, but it won't melt,” Serrato said.
Stores offer customers note templates that they can fill out to send a message to the soldiers, Serrato said. Locations that aren’t near an organization that can ship the fudge often donate money.
"I think it's just a really great way for the stores to interact with their community,” Serrato said. "We're just really thankful to Bruce and Jean for coming up such a great program and lending us their idea.”
The eighth annual Fudge for Soldiers takes place this July at the Kuhns’ Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory stores in La Grange and Orland Park.