FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Army Emergency Fund provided more than $965 million to help Soldiers in need last year and, as the campaign enters its final leg, Fort Rucker is once again on track to do its part.

According to Capt. Abigail Zajac, Fort Rucker AER campaign coordinator, the post community generously contributed more than $160,000 last year.

"AER does not set a specific monetary goal for each campaign, but we sincerely hope that all Soldiers will consider the opportunity this program provides and give as they see fit," she said. "Ideally, we would like this year's campaign to beat last year's collection of $164,398.50, but we are happy for any donations that we receive and hope that each member of the community will contribute however they can."

According to Beth Gunter, AER officer, more than $90,000 has been donated as of April 19.

"Last year, the Fort Rucker Soldiers', retirees' and communities' commitment to support Army Emergency Relief and the importance of the assistance it provides was evident through their generous donations of $164,398.50," she said. "The goal this year is to continue that legacy of caring and exceed last year's contributions."

The campaign continues through May 15, but donations are accepted year round.

"An individual may not be in a position to support AER right now, but still would like the opportunity to do so," Gunter said. Contributions to AER are accepted throughout the year, either online at www.aerhq.org or at the Fort Rucker AER office in the Soldier Service Center, Bldg. 5700, Rm. 350. During the online donation process, the donor is able to note the installation they are from and the unit under the additional information section, which then adds their donations to the Fort Rucker campaign total.

Last year, Fort Rucker contributed $164,459. However, more than $470,208 of assistance was provided to Fort Rucker Soldiers, retirees, family members and surviving spouses and orphans -- "$188,266 of that assistance was provided as grants and scholarships," she added. "The donations provided to the campaign are contributed to AER to be used for Soldiers regardless their location."

The traditional categories of assistance, according to Gunter, are emergency travel, rent, utilities, essential privately owned vehicle repairs, funeral expenses, food and gas.

"The categories of assistance have expanded to also cover advanced travel funds if there is a delay in receipt of advance pay or dislocation allowance; minor home repairs, to include repair of the heating and cooling system, purchase and repair of stoves, refrigerator, washer and dryer when establishing a new household or to repair if required; and essential furniture when establishing a new household," she said. "Providing a no-interest loan to assist in these areas can assist Soldiers and their families from further financial hardship."

According to Zajac, there are additional areas of assistance AER provides that may not be as well known.

"Most people are familiar with AER's no-interest loans, but may be less familiar with the other forms of financial assistance that AER offers," she said. "For instance, in certain cases, rather than giving a loan, AER may give Soldiers or their families assistance in the form of a grant so that the recipient has no requirement to pay back AER. Additionally, AER offers scholarships that spouses and children of service members can use toward achieving a four-year degree.

"AER's assistance can be vital to families because it allows them to focus on other things," she added. "The stress associated with financial burden can be terrible for a family, and when a Soldier has a difficult environment at home, it can lead to poor performance on duty, and it can harm children's ability to perform in school and a spouse's ability to perform in his/her respective career. By alleviating that burden, all areas of family life are enabled to develop more freely with less worry, which helps each of the family members to perform better at their respective duties and obligations.

For more information, visit https://www.aerhq.org.