By Taylor Marie Smith Fort Jackson LeaderArmy Emergency Relief kicked off its 2020 fundraising campaign at Century Lanes on Fort Jackson Feb. 21. The slogan for this year's campaign, which officially runs from Mar. 1 to May 15, is "A Hand up for Soldiers." AER doesn't have a specific amount or limit for the fundraiser; they just want to raise as much as possible for the program, while educating everyone on post about AER and how it can help those in need.Staff Sgt. Derek Emswiler of the 282nd Army Band said "it's great for when you have dire circumstances; it's a very good program and helpful when you need it the most."Wanda Redd is an AER Specialist who was working at the kick-off campaign. She said part of the goal of the campaign is "to make Soldiers aware of what AER can do for them, so they don't turn to pawn shops or payday loan companies during a financial crisis."AER is a private nonprofit organization established in 1942 providing interest-free loans to active and retired Soldiers and their Families during times of hardships or financial emergencies. AER can help provide funds for many different situations, including rent, utilities, food, emergency travel, car seats and vehicle repair, among other things.Each case is normally reviewed by an AER caseworker during a scheduled appointment. However, there is a Commander and First Sergeant Quick Assist Program that helps Soldiers get up to $2,000 for approved expenses almost immediately. AER also offers college scholarship opportunities for both Army spouses and children.Since AER is a private nonprofit organization, it doesn't receive any money from the government. Instead, it relies on donations from active and retired Soldiers and civilians, raised during the Army's annual funding campaign. Last year, AER raised roughly $7 million. In Fiscal Year 2019, Fort Jackson provided 676 Soldiers and Families with roughly $1 million in emergency financial assistance.Additional funding also comes from repayment of interest-free loans, as well as an investment program that creates operational income for the program.The kick off ceremony was immediately followed by a unit bowling competition.More information on AER can be found at https://www.aerhq.org/.