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Dining for a Cause in Great Falls

Military Appreciation Monday dinner series to continue in 2013.

The backroom of the Old Brogue was full of chatter as friends and families piled in to support The Navy SEAL Foundation at the Military Appreciation Monday dinner on Dec. 10.

The backroom of the Old Brogue was full of chatter as friends and families piled in to support The Navy SEAL Foundation at the Military Appreciation Monday dinner on Dec. 10. Photo by Jennifer Benitz

Long-time Great Falls resident Bob Nelson was all smiles as he stood in the backroom of the Old Brogue providing warm words and thanks to families and supporters sitting in attendance at the monthly Military Appreciation Monday dinner on Dec. 10.

For the past four years, Nelson has been hosting monthly dinners at the Old Brogue to support various military organizations, with about 95 percent of the proceeds raised at each dinner going directly to the organization for which the dinner is held. Last Monday night’s dinner was in support of The Navy SEAL Foundation.

“One of the reasons I do this is so you can become aware of these organizations and volunteer if you’d like,” said Nelson in his wrap-up speech at the end of the first seating.

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Bob Nelson, (left), a retired foreign service officer, takes a moment to stand with his brother Larry Nelson, a retired Navy Seal, in between dinner seatings on Dec. 10.

NELSON’S BROTHER, Larry, also made an appearance just in time to speak briefly to the diners about the foundation, which is managed by retired navy seals. Since the foundation stood up in 2000, 79 seals have been killed, with the overwhelming majority of them in Afghanistan. The others were killed in various parts of the world, including Iraq, Libya, Yemen, El Salvador or in training. In providing Navy Seals and their families, the foundation pays for the expenses of sending family members to wherever the injured or fallen service member is.

“The organization brings families wherever a funeral or memorial service is held," said Nelson, 68, a retired Navy SEAL. "It spends $100,000s of dollars a year doing this, but it relies solely on donations.”

In addition to providing transportation to memorials and funerals, The Navy SEAL Foundation also provides information about available help if a service member is injured. As a result, the foundation relies heavily on donations, such as funds from Monday’s dinner, in order to assist service members and their families.

“The method is people come, eat and drink,” said Bob Nelson, 60, a retired Foreign Service officer turned realtor. “We have co-sponsors and we each match 10 percent of the total sales for the dinner’s attendees at the end of the night,” usually totaling to about $150-200 for each sponsor.

Although Monday’s dinner wasn’t as packed as most dinners, the attendance was still high. With an average of 100-110 attendees per dinner, a total of $5,000 to $6,000 is usually raised in a single night for an organization. In addition, Nelson also works with Our Military Kids, a McLean-based organization that helps provide Christmas gifts for military families all over the United States through its wounded warrior Christmas Gift Wish List project.

“The first year we worked with 36 families, including 25 kids. It was a piece of cake,” said Nelson in regards to finding people to donate gifts. “The second year, we had 65 kids. That was a lot of work. Last year, we had 40 families, so about 96 kids. This year, we have 40 families and about 100 kids. We give [donors] the family’s contact information and the idea is to make personal connection.

They like getting the phone calls as much as they like getting the gifts,” said Nelson. “The idea is to give a special Christmas for the kids of the injured and fallen.”

THE HOLIDAYS may be coming to an end soon, but Nelson continues the monthly dinner tradition in 2013 with the next Military Appreciation Monday dedicated to the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation on Jan. 14 and Stop Soldier Suicide to follow on Feb. 11.