By Skip Vaughn, USAG Redstone June 20, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The Redstone community has again strongly supported the annual fundraising campaign to help Soldiers and their families during emergencies.
The 2014 Army Emergency Relief campaign collected more than $155,460 by June 9. The official drive went from March 1 through May 31, but money is contributed year-round.
"There are several more fundraising activities taking place this summer," AER officer Kathleen Riester said. "Those numbers will increase our total."
"I'm sure we'll be around the $200,000 mark by Dec. 31," campaign coordinator Chanley Pickard said.
Rather than seeking a financial goal, this year's campaign emphasized encouraging organizations and individuals to contribute. And Team Redstone and the surrounding community did not disappoint.
Many fundraising events were held throughout the campaign. These included golf tournaments, bake sales, barbecues, doughnut sales, a basketball free throw competition, organizational fun days, fun runs/walks, book sales, hot dog sales, silent auctions, pie-in-the-face auctions, strawberry/plant sales and more.
"To Team Redstone, AER representatives, contributors and leaders, thank you for your support and effort in making this a successful campaign year," Pickard said.
The top contributor on post was the AMCOM Logistics Center which raised $23,866. The center will hold its AER recognition ceremony June 24.
The top contributor outside the gates was the Huntsville Havoc hockey team, which raised $22,163 from its jersey auction on military appreciation night March 15.
"In addition to the fundraising, many, many people just wrote a check to AER," Riester said. "It all adds up. We're grateful for all of it."
This includes another traditional strong showing from military retirees in the Tennessee Valley area. They contributed $59,226 to the campaign, generally through allotments. AER headquarters in Washington, D.C., sends a letter to military retirees worldwide each December announcing the campaign and including an allotment slip.
"All of these dollars raised worldwide go into one bank," Riester said. "And it's used for emergencies dictated by (Army) regulation."
AER is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to Soldiers, active and retired, and their families. Since its inception in 1942, AER has provided more than $1.5 billion to more than 3.5 million Soldiers, families and retirees.
AER provides no-interest loans and grants for emergency travel, initial rent deposits, and vehicle repairs for service members and families. It also assists with financial needs such as household and appliance repair, dependent dental care, as well as initial home furnishings.
During 2013, Riester reported, AER provided 1,284 payments totaling $240,272. This included 94 to active duty military for $15,107; 712 to retirees for $66,507; and 478 to others for $158,658.
Redstone's annual campaign overcame a slow start this year. Team Redstone has more than 50 tenant organizations on post but only 11 provided key representatives for the pre-campaign training and 22 were trained.
"It started slow but immediately picked up," Pickard said. "Pretty much after the Havoc game, everything took off."
Pickard and Riester both work at Army Community Service, where Riester serves as the financial readiness program manager.
"I would say we're sitting very good (with AER) right now," Riester said.