KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- In 1942, Army Emergency Relief began as a private, nonprofit organization. Since then, the organization has helped more than 3.7 million Soldiers, retirees and families receive vital financial assistance and scholarships totaling $1.9 billion and aims to provide more assistance during their annual campaign March 1 through May 15.

"It's What We Do" is this year's AER theme, which speaks to its selfless mission of helping Soldiers and their families, said Kristin James, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz AER coordinator and Army Community Service Financial Readiness Program manager.

"AER is a commander's tool to ensure individual Soldier readiness, which is a Soldier's ability to fight and win the nation's wars anytime, anywhere, under any conditions," she explained. "Many times, people don't know where to turn when they are going through an emergency financial crisis. Sometimes, they obtain high-interest loans that charge up to 300 percent interest. To prevent this, AER assistance is provided through interest-free loans and grants or a combination of both."

Some categories of assistance include: emergency travel, funeral expenses, vehicle repairs, cranial helmets, minor home repairs, rent, mortgage and more.

When Soldiers experience financial difficulties, it has the potential to affect several aspects of their lives to include readiness, personal relationships and mental health. That's why AER is committed to easing those burdens and taking care of Soldiers so they can focus on taking care of the mission.

"AER is one of the most important programs for helping Soldiers in need," said USAG RP Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse. "The purpose of the program, reflected in its title, is to help Soldiers who find themselves in an emergency situation by providing them with financial relief. What makes the program unique is that Soldiers fund it. Please donate today to this 'Soldiers helping Soldiers' program so there are funds available for those in need tomorrow."

From basic living expenses to emergency travel, AER brings financial assistance and stability to today's Soldiers and retirees in need. Giving them a helping 'hand up' is a part of what it means to be "There for Those Who Serve."

AER also brings the hope of a brighter future to Army spouses and children through scholarships, grants and interest-free loans. The Spouse Education Assistance Program takes applications throughout the year, while the Major General James Ursano Scholarship Program accepts applications between January and early April to provide scholarships to dependent children. In fact, more than 10 percent of all AER assistance was distributed in the form of grants. In 2018, $8 million was awarded to 3,223 dependent children and spouses.

"Army Emergency Relief is 100 percent funded through donations, and anyone can donate," James said. "There are many methods of donating, and you can do this by reaching out to your AER Campaign Unit Representative or making a donation online at www.aerhq.org."

Rheinland-Pfalz ACS hosts two AER Kickoff Breakfast events:

Kaiserslautern -- 7:30 to 9 a.m., Feb. 26, at the Kaiserslautern Community Activity Center, Bldg. 3109, Daenner Kaserne.

Baumholder -- 7:30 to 9 a.m., Feb. 27, at the Hard Rock Diner Dining Facility, Bldg. 8311, Smith Barracks. Everyone is welcome to enjoy a free breakfast and hear more about what AER is doing to help our Soldiers and their families.

For more information about AER, visit www.aerhq.org or call Army Community Service at 541-9000 or commercial at 0611-143-541-9000.