In freezing temperatures at 5 a.m. Friday, the University of Wyoming ROTC Cowboy Battalion marched 1.5 miles carrying more than 5,000 pounds of donations to the Laramie Soup Kitchen.

“This is a big part of learning to lead and serve others,” said Emily Quallen, UW junior and the ROTC cadet in charge of the event. “It means a lot more when you are actually physically delivering the items you collected.”

Since January, the Soup Kitchen has collected 90,000 pounds in donations — double what it received in 2015. This is the first year the ROTC contributed; however, Quallen said she expects it to become a tradition.

“The army isn’t always about training to kill and fight, first and foremost it is about serving people,” she said.

Donations included non-perishable food, as well as winter clothing. Quallen said this is an important time of year for donations, as temperatures are dropping and the holiday season is approaching.

One cadet even donated an entire cow they slaughtered.

Typically, the ROTC has physical training practice from 5:30-7 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The battalion chose to march the food in rucksacks in place of physical training Friday morning, with 135 cadets carrying a minimum of 35 pounds of donations each.

Laramie Soup Kitchen Executive Director Ted Cramer said the facility serves as a hub for donations. Around 9-10 percent of donations are immediately given to other nonprofits, such as the Cathedral Home for Children, Laramie Youth Crisis Center, CLIMB Wyoming, Clothing Cottage and Interfaith-Good Samaritan.

“Because we don’t need 90,000 pounds of food, we try to process as much as possible, and then when we are able to get food out to another nonprofit food program we do,” Cramer said.

Regular donors to the Soup Kitchen include Ridley’s, Safeway, UW, Little Caesars, Ridley’s Starbucks and general community members. The kitchen serves one hot meal a day, but additional food is put in a pantry for people to take.

According to USDA federal guidelines, the Soup Kitchen can accept non-perishable food up to two years past its overdue date; however, Interfaith can only accept food one year past due.

“Based on agencies we redistribute to, we learn their rules and give them the highest quality product we can,” Cramer said. “We keep the older food and give them the newest food.”

Due to this chain of donations, Cramer said it is essential to continue the flow of food into the Soup Kitchen. Quallen said this is one reason the ROTC chose to donate to the organization.

“We really just want to do something as a battalion to reach out to the community, and get together before finals for one last big event to help people out,” Quallen said.

The Laramie Soup Kitchen accepts donations from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

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