By Skip Vaughn, Rocket EditorMarch 4, 2009
"Adding Strength to Army Strong" is this year's theme for the Army Emergency Relief campaign, which had its kickoff March 2.
The annual fund-raising drive continues through May 31 with a $210,000 goal.
"AER helps active duty and retired Soldiers and their family members with financial emergencies," AER officer Mike Burden said.
The fund provides loans or grants and also gives scholarships.
"It helps people in financial emergencies," Burden said. "For example, emergency leave, for travel expenses for people on emergency leave. Things like rent, mortgage, utilities and food. Actually there's not much that AER can't help with - things like emergency car repair."
In 2008, more than 500 people - mostly in Madison County - received a total of $509,000 in loans and grants. This included active duty and retired military, widows of deceased veterans and their family members.
"One of the things people don't realize is even though we exceeded the (campaign) goal in the past - last year there was $292,000 contributed to the campaign - AER assisted with more than $509,000," Burden said. "So we actually gave away or loaned almost twice the amount of contributions."
Burden succeeded Kristi Foster as the AER officer at Army Community Service. He arrived Jan. 20 from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where he served as an accredited financial counselor with the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education.
Maj. Pam Tingle of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command serves as this year's AER campaign chairman. Sgt. Justin Bollay, also of USASMDC/ARSTRAT, is campaign co-chairman.
"People should give to AER because it's an excellent cause," Tingle said. "It helps Soldiers in need. That is the bottom line."
As the commander of Headquarters & Headquarters Company USASMDC/ARSTRAT, Tingle has seen the fund help Soldiers facing unforeseen financial needs. A Soldier in Colorado Springs, Colo., had to go on emergency leave, for example.
"It's Soldiers helping Soldiers," said Bollay, human resources sergeant with USASMDC/ARSTRAT.
The campaign's closing ceremony is June 8 at 1 p.m. at Bob Jones Auditorium.
For more information about Army Emergency Relief, call Burden at 876-9579.