Semper fi for troops: E. Dundee couple still faithful with Operation Sweet Tooth
By Erin Sauder For Sun-Times Media September 5, 2013 12:12PM
Roger and Diane Ahrens at their of Piece-A-Cake Bakery in East Dundee. Since 2004, the two former U.S. Marines have conducted Operation Sweet Tooth, sending boxes of cookies to U.S. servicemen and servicewomen fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. A fundraiser is scheduled for Sept. 14 with proceeds donated to the Chicago-based Wounded Heroes Foundation. | Erin Sauder for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:36PM
EAST DUNDEE — The men and women serving overseas have always held a special place in the hearts of Roger and Diane Ahrens of Piece-A-Cake Bakery.
Former Marines themselves, the Ahrenses have been conducting their Operation Sweet Tooth initiative since 2004, sending boxes of cookies to U.S. servicemen and servicewomen fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The community’s support has helped the business pay for postage and ingredients for these shipments.
“In 2004, we were sending 25 boxes every other week,” Diane Ahrens said. “Now we maybe send six boxes a month. It’s sad. And (the troops) are still there. The support on this end seems like it’s constantly dwindling. They need to know we haven’t forgotten they’re there.”
To increase awareness for the troops, for the past few years the Ahrens have also been hosting a family fun day.
This year’s event — set for 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at East Dundee’s Depot Park, 319 N. River St. — will include music, food, games, raffles with prizes donated by area businesses, and family activities. The Ahrenses also plan to host a “jail and bail” fundraiser where people can put someone in jail and have them sit in the bakery until they can raise enough contributions to make their bail.
Proceeds will be donated to the Chicago-based Wounded Heroes Foundation, which works to help meet the needs of the wounded troops and their families by offering physical, emotional and financial support.
“We have a lot of young men and women coming home and they need houses rehabbed because of disabilities,” Ahrens said. “And families are giving up jobs to be with them while they’re going through surgeries and rehabilitation. I think as a general public we don’t hear or see a lot of what’s going on. So we’re trying to raise a little awareness.”
The founder of Wounded Heroes will speak at this year’s event. Veterans organizations and a local animal shelter will also be on site for the festivities.
Roger Ahrens did two tours in Vietnam, serving from 1968 to 1980. Diane Ahrens served as a military policewoman during peace times at Parris Island. The duo opened Piece-A-Cake Bakery, at 304 N. River St., 19 years ago.
Since beginning Operation Sweet Tooth, more than 11,500 pounds of cookies have been sent to U.S. troops.
The Ahrenses continue to seek donations for the initiative.
“We have a little coin box at the bakery to offset some of our costs,” Ahrens said.
For $20, community members can have the Ahrenses send a care package of cookies overseas.
“It’s about $15 for shipping, and we use the other $5 to offset the ingredients,” Ahrens said.
Years ago, when her younger brother-in-law served in Korea, Ahrens often would send him packages around the holidays.
“This was before we had the bakery. I forgot about it, but he said to me one day, ‘Do you remember sending all that stuff to me?’ I didn’t, but he did,” she said. “It does make an impact on the troops. And it encourages them. And that’s my goal.”