(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Post exchange customers will soon have the opportunity to assist Soldiers and their families, and save a little at the register, as well.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, in partnership with Army Emergency Relief and Air Force Aid Society will host the "Give and Get Back" event Sept. 14-18 to collect donations that benefit military service members and their families.

"By partnering with AAFES through the 'Give and Get Back' program, an opportunity is provided to donate to [AER] or the [AFAS] in increments of $5 and in return receive it back through a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase," Beth Gunter, Army Community Service financial counselor and AER officer, said. "Multiple coupons can be used in increments of $25, so if you are planning to make a purchase, you could go to the [PX] Sept. 14-18 to make a donation to AER, then purchase the item Sept. 19-25. The planned purchase is made and, at the same time, you have contributed to a program that has assisted over 3.7 million Soldiers and their families. With your support, this legacy of providing emergency financial assistance to Soldiers and Family members in need can continue."

According to Suzie Antonello, AAFES visual merchandiser, donating is easy and can be painless with small, short-term lifestyle adjustments.

"Five dollars is a small price to pay to know you've made a difference for a military family in need," she said. "For less than the price of lunch you can help the members of your military community who need assistance to continue serving at their fullest capacity."

Gunter echoed Antonello's sentiment.

"For the cost of a specialty coffee or breakfast on-the- go, you have the opportunity to contribute to a program that impacts Soldiers and families on a daily basis," she said. "You can truly make a difference."

Utilizing no-interest loans and, in some instances, grants, AER provides a means for Soldiers to overcome their unexpected financial issues by avoiding further financial hardship, she added.

In 2016, according to Gunter, Fort Rucker Soldiers and family members received a total of $470,207.50 in AER assistance, of which $188,265.52 was provided in the form of grants or scholarships.

At the same time, donations received during the AER campaign from Fort Rucker active duty, retired Soldiers and the community was $164,459.

"Programs like the 'Give and Get Back' event can help ensure AER can continue to provide the assistance when needed," she said.

According to Gunter, the event also serves to drum up awareness and support for the annual AER campaign, held March 1 through May 15 each year.

"The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness of the benefits of AER, so it can be a first choice for those experiencing unexpected hardship," she said. "It also provides the opportunity to contribute to a program that could benefit the Soldier at some point in their life or the Soldier sitting next to them in the trenches, aircraft, classroom or in the unit."

Antonello reinforced the importance of relief programs and need for donations.

"Soldiers, Airmen and their families sacrifice so much to protect our freedoms, but often feel like they have few places to turn when times are tough," she said. "Programs like [AER] and [AFAS] rely on private donations to continue providing services to service members. 'Give and Get Back' is a convenient way to support these programs while shopping at Army and Air Force exchanges and receiving savings on merchandise in return."

AAFES customers can expect other savings opportunities, in addition to Give and Get Back," according to Antonello.

"On Sept. 18, the Exchange will offer 10 cents off each gallon of fuel when you pay with a MILITARY STAR card in honor of the Air Force's 70th birthday," she said.

For more information, call 255-2341.