PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- The Presidio of Monterey and Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center kicked off its 2015 AER campaign March 1.

The local campaign coincides with the annual Army-wide AER campaign which runs March 1 - May 15. The purpose of the campaign is to bring awareness of the Army Emergency Relief program and the services it provides to the military. Since 1942, AER, a private, non-profit organization, has been helping the Army "take care of its own" by providing financial assistance to service members and their families.

This year's theme is "Army Emergency Relief-Making a Difference," which, according to the website, serves as a reminder that service members and their family members can place their trust and confidence in AER to provide compassion and care with much-needed financial relief in times of an unexpected crisis.

AER provides emergency financial assistance to active-duty service members and their dependents, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers on active duty for more than 30 days and their dependents, retirees and their dependents, and surviving spouses and orphans of Soldiers who died while on active duty or after they retired. AER financial assistance is provided as an interest-free loan, a grant, or a combination of the two, based on need. Assistance can include emergency travel, privately owned vehicle repair, rent, utilities, and medical and dental expenses.

Soldiers can receive up to $4,000 for basic furniture and replacement vehicle needs, but on the rest of the eligible needs, there is no limit on how much money they can be given.

According to Clifford Thornburg, AER Coordinator for the Presidio of Monterey, more than 188 service members were assisted by AER in the Monterey area last year with a sum of $265,953.88 in funds distributed to recipients in personal financial emergencies. Donations made by the Presidio of Monterey community to the 2014 AER campaign raised $118,059.91 in funds for the program.

People who would like to make a donation to AER can do so through the website at www.aerhq.org or by contacting their unit key person.

Soldiers in need of AER assistance should contact their chain of command or the installation AER officer at 831-244-5501.

ABOUT THE ARMY EMERGENCY RELIEF CAMPAIGN

The Army conducts the Army Emergency Relief Annual Campaign from March 1 through May 15 each year to offer Soldiers the opportunity to help their fellow Soldiers as well as increase Soldiers' awareness of this valuable benefit. In addition to the annual campaign, AER accepts unsolicited donations from individual donors and corporations at any time.

AER is a private nonprofit organization incorporated in 1942 to relieve distress of Soldiers and their dependents. Today AER's mission is to provide financial assistance to Soldiers and their families in the form of interest-free loans and grants for emergency assistance to include rent, food, travel, car repair, funeral, medical and dental expenses, children and spouse scholarships, Soldiers medically evacuated from official operations, and support to families of fallen Soldiers.

AER assistance is available to Soldiers and their families wherever they are located and the amount of assistance approved is only limited by a valid need. Soldiers and their family members requiring AER assistance need only contact their chain of command or local AER office. Under AER's Command Referral Program company commanders and first sergeants have the authority to approve AER loans to their Soldiers up to $1,000. Based on reciprocal agreements, Soldiers and families not near an Army Installation AER office can seek assistance from the Air Force Aid Society, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance or a local chapter of the American Red Cross.