Fort Belvoir, Va. (June 12, 2014) - Toni Cuttino, Army Emergency Relief Officer, couldn't control her excitement, June 5, as she thanked the community over and over for pushing the 2014 Army Emergency Relief Campaign over its goal of $160,000.

"One team, one mission, mission complete," Cuttino beamed.

For the second year in a row, the AER, which provides interest-free loans to servicemembers in need, has exceeded its annual campaign goal. What's different is AER's staff had to wait weeks before they saw the final tally rise in 2013. Cuttino said this year; they knew right away that the goal had been met.

"I left work Thursday (May 29) at (4 p.m.), and we had $144,000. By Friday morning, we had exceeded," she said.

And the donations keep rolling in. The total, as of June 5, was $169,650.

"I'm just so grateful for the community showing our unsung heroes that we do care," Cuttino said. "It takes a community, and we showed them."

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Guillory said the community is always eager to give back.

"In my opinion it shows the willingness of the community to give back to Fort Belvoir and the servicemembers and the Families it serves," he said.

The annual campaign kicked off March 1, and finished May 31.

Soldiers of any rank can access the AER in a time of financial need. Since January 1, the fund has handed out $92,277 to Soldiers in need.

Guillory said the AER is an invaluable resource for Soldiers. All the money raised stays on post and is handed out as needed.

"I would go as far as saying that, without AER and what it does for the community, servicemembers would lose their homes and probably go hungry," he said. "The AER provides the tools to hold them together in tough times."

Each dollar goes a lot further than one would think.

"The importance of meeting our goal is Fort Belvoir gives out three to four times more money each year than it takes in," Guillory said. "The lives and Families that it affects are infinite."

The interest-free loans can be accessed by active-duty, retirees, Reserve or National Guard Soldiers facing unforeseen hardships. They can come in for anything from their primary vehicle breaking down, to help paying funeral expenses for a loved one. Cuttino is capable of approving loans up to $2,500, but anything higher must be approved by the garrison commander.

"I just can't thank the community enough for taking care of its own," Cuttino said.

Cuttino credits a strong social media campaign and the efforts of several individuals on post who helped push the campaign over the top.

"The unit on post that went above and beyond was INSCOM (U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command). It donated more than $11,000," Cuttino said. Leading that charge was 1st. Lt. Christopher Perdue. "All the units were great, but his unit had the most."

Cuttino said 2,470 credit cards were charged during the campaign, and $122,690 came from retirees alone.

"Retirees are really taking care of Soldiers," she said.

Cuttino hopes the campaign will further raise awareness of the AER and encourage Soldiers to come in when they need help.

"I know there are more Soldiers out there who don't know what we do here," she said.

To help spread the word Cuttino is planning a meet and greet Tuesday with first sergeants and commanders on post to educate them on how they can help their soldiers. The event is 9 - 10 a.m. at Army Community Service. To reserve your spot at the meet and greet, call (703) 805-4590 by Friday.

It was a short fundraising campaign for Cuttino, who started as AER officer in February. She hopes to build on the campaign this year, and start a bit earlier in 2015. Donations are accepted all year long.

For more information on the local AER, contact Cuttino at (703) 805-3130 or email her at toni.m.cuttino.civ@mail.mil. Information is also available online at www.aerhq.org.

Page last updated Wed June 11th, 2014 at 00:00