“I went back the following year to the CATS fest with my wife. I was beyond enthused. What is there not to like about hanging with friends from around the country, smoking cigars, and supporting an amazing charity? We broke bread together, listened to fantastic music, and had a lot of great entertainment, but I noticed its strong love and support of the troops and Operation: Cigars for Warriors.
“I did not know that much about Cigars for Warriors yet. I did know this was a great community. Did I mention the cigars? One thing about the cigar community is that they share! I have been gifted many cigars over the years by my brothers and sisters of the leaf.
“I was intrigued. Cigars for Warriors, what is it? Well, that is the next part of the story.
“My new friend Steve was working an event in Addison, TX, at one of our Donation Centers. I went up to check it out. I began to understand this organization was more than just a few people sending cigars and care packages. Steve had a table where he was collecting donations, cigars, and cash to send to deployed troops. The picture was starting to become more apparent. CFW was a more significant thing than I imagined. Steve mentioned that with my skill set, I would make a good volunteer for CFW. I thought about it and let him know I would mull it over. Over the next few weeks, I thought this could be fun and benefit the deployed troops.
“A few months later, I met with the Chairman of CFW Storm Boen. The next thing I know, I am now an official event coordinator for CFW. As I became more involved with the organization, I discovered it was much more than a few people sending care packages to deployed troops. Despite what was told to me in so many ways, I had no idea just how big Cigars for Warriors is. They have ties in nearly every cigar social media group, community cigar group, and with 90% of the manufacturers of the industry. I knew how big this charity was when I was in a meeting with the Cigar Caucus Chairman’s Chief of staff, and they were asking to be of any help or tie us to them in any way. I realized that CFW is featured in most cigar magazines and in several non-cigar publications, which was incredibly impressive.
“As I got deeper into the organization, I was asked to work our trade show in Las Vegas. I began meeting people in the cigar industry–people I would not ordinarily cross paths with–and I discovered that our love of the leaf goes beyond our daily lives and impacts the people tasked with protecting our way of life.
It was so cool to see how the majority of companies in all the trade shows CFW goes to respond to the charity in such positive ways. The Synergy Program demonstrates how many companies–whether in cigars, swag, or coffee–truly respect and support the charity.
“I’m very proud of the transparency and checks and balances the charity has, and it recognizes, especially in charity watchdog organizations like Guidestar.org (CFW rated top Platinum, 0.05 percent of the US 3.29 million non-profits reach that status). Greatnonprofits.com rated CFW in the top 10 percent of U.S. non-profit companies.
“I have now been on the Board of directors for two years. I am humbled to be able to serve this way. I am constantly amazed at our deployed troops’ gratitude for our support. When I started this journey, I had no idea how many lives this organization touched.
I thought I knew what a simple cigar meant to our deployed troops, but after visiting with a few dozen recipients these last couple of years, it is mind-boggling what our care packages mean to them.
“I’m proud to say Operation: Cigars for Warriors has existed for ten-plus years, and we have shipped over 1.4 million cigars to deployed troops, a ton of coffee, lighters, cutters, and more. If that isn’t a win, I don’t know what is!”
– Contributed by Paul E. Hinman, executive administrative assistant at Operation: Cigars for Warriors.