Fort Leonard Wood's annual Army Emergency Relief fundraising and awareness campaign begins March 11 with a kick-off ceremony at 9 a.m. in the Engineer Regimental Room at the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex.This year marks the 78th anniversary of the Army's non-profit relief organization, which has provided more than $2 billion to Soldiers, retirees and family members since 1942.According to Fort Leonard Wood AER Officer Chuck Matthews, the 2020 campaign goal is to raise $150,000 from active-duty Soldiers by creating greater awareness of AER's programs.Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, AER director, will visit the post Tuesday and Wednesday to speak with Soldiers about some of the policy and assistance changes and how AER can help those in need."The assistance we provide Soldiers in need is the primary focus of the Army's annual AER campaign, as well as ensuring that 100 percent of Soldiers are fully informed on the programs and benefits of AER," Mason said. "AER's zero-interest loans and grants help Soldiers when they face difficult financial situations."Some of those changes include:-- Active-duty Soldiers on verified emergency leave orders are now eligible for up to 100 percent coverage of necessary travel costs as a grant.-- Grants are now available for coverage of certain costs related to special medical equipment not covered by insurance for Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System dependents.-- Grants are now available for service members' costs related to cranial and molding helmets medically necessary for a dependent child.-- Up to $15,000 in loans are available for funeral-cost assistance for dependents.-- Up to $5,000 in loans are available for home repairs, including heating, cooling, gas or water-line repairs and roofs.-- Financial coverage of re-licensing or re-certification fees for spouses following a change of duty assignment.-- Immigration/Naturalization fee coverage for active-duty Soldiers recently married to a foreign-born spouse.Matthews said to remember that all AER assistance has certain guidelines and restrictions that apply to the cost and situation, and to contact the local AER office for more information about specific needs.According to Matthews, AER provided $795,732 in 657 loans and grants to Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers in 2019, as well as 122 educational scholarships worth $145,803 to 68 children and 54 spouses on the post."That is $941,535 to the Fort Leonard Wood community, or $4.75 for every dollar donated to the campaign," Matthews said.In addition to the new assistance changes, AER also provides assistance for things such as mortgage, rent and automobile payments, dependent dental care and appliance repair or replacement.Matthews said there are also AER educational scholarships awarded through two programs: the MG James Ursano Scholarship Program for dependent children and the AER Spouse Scholarship Program.In 2019, AER provided 3,900 scholarships worth $8.1 million.Matthews said the scholarships are awarded based on financial need for up to four academic years to attend post-secondary school full time as undergraduate-level students. Funds are for assistance with academic expenses at the attending school, and are disbursed equally between the fall and spring semesters or quarters to assist with tuition, books, fees and supplies. Students must maintain a grade point average of at least 2.0 on a 4.0 grading scale. The 2020-2029 scholarships are being accepted online now through April 1.For more information on the kick-off ceremony, or how to donate to AER, call 573.596.2595 or 0212. To request AER assistance, call 573.596.3154.(Editor's note: Information for this article was provided by the Fort Leonard Wood AER office.)