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Is Uber showcasing its softer side?

(Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

Uber, the self-described technology company that is reinventing the way people get from here to there, seems to be showing as softer side  with two recent campaigns focused on charitable giving and veterans.

Earlier this month, Uber announced its “Ride For A Cause” initiative in which the company would donate $1 for each trip completed to one of five charities selected by its D.C.-area customers. Among those on the list: SOME — So Others May Eat; Best Buddies; Fight for Children; IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America); and the National Park Foundation. The campaign will run through Sept. 28. As an added incentive, the charity with the most rides will receive an additional $10,000.

D.C. isn’t the only community where Uber has stretched is philanthropic wings. In Philadelphia, it organized a drive to collect school supplies for Philadelphia School District schools.

Uber also recruited another high profile former member of the Obama administration to announce another initiative — UberMILITARY. In a POLITICO Magazine piece, Uber chief Travis Kalanick and former secretary of defense Robert Gates announced an 18-month effort to recruit 50,000 service members, veterans and military spouses to become Uber drivers.

The pair wrote:

UberMILITARY is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes program to streamline Uber’s partner on-boarding process for the military community. Beginning this week, we are connecting directly with thousands of service members, veterans and their families at events around the country. On the ground, our targeted recruiting efforts include free rides to job fairs, special referral bonuses for UberMILITARY partners, waived city fees or deposits, and special information sessions and office hours.

Gates will serve as voluntary chairman of the newly created UberMILITARY Advisory Board. Uber has previously announced the hiring of David Plouffe, one of Obama’s chief strategists as a senior vice president of policy and strategy.

Uber’s rivals were quick to respond to the company’s efforts to recruit veterans. In an e-mailed statement, Robbie Werth, president of the International Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, which is sponsoring the “Who’s Driving You” awareness campaign, highlighted concerns that have been raised about insurance coverage for uberX drivers, who use their own vehicles to give rides to customers.

“Our fear is that these drivers will be uberX drivers, in which case veterans absolutely must be told that they are putting their financial well-being at stake,” he said. “Their personal car insurance simply does not cover this activity.”

Note: Since July, Uber has been offering primary coverage for uberX drivers from the time they accept a trip to the time that trip ends. But in other instances — such as when a driver is waiting to be “hailed,” the driver’s personal insurance would provide coverage — so Werth does offer something for veterans and members of their families to think about before they sign on.

(Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is an Uber investor.)