WIESBADEN, Germany – Army Emergency Relief will kick off its annual fundraising campaign with a virtual cake cutting event 11-11:30 a.m. March 1 on the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Army Community Service Facebook page. The cake will be served during lunch time at the dining facility Strong Europe Café on Clay Kaserne.“The intent of the AER campaign is to create an awareness of the AER benefits and programs and to provide an opportunity for Soldiers to help fellow Soldiers by making a donation,” said Tawana Ballard, AER officer.AER is a private non-profit organization that was founded in 1942 to support Soldiers and families with financial emergencies by providing zero-interest loans and grants, Ballard said.“AER is always looking for new ways to assist, to be proactive where Soldiers and families need help and be immediately ready to provide meaningful assistance,” said Federica LeMauk, Financial Readiness Program manager.AER helps pay for things such as emergency travel, health care expenses, food purchases, rent or mortgage, minor home repairs, immigration fees, special needs equipment and adaptive devices, and other expenses, Ballard said.This year, some COVID-related items have been added to the list, she said.“Army Emergency Relief remains steadfast in its long-standing commitment to meet the needs of the 21st century Soldier and family during a crisis, therefore providing assistance to Soldiers and families impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic remains a top priority,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Charles Durr, AER chief of assistance.This year, AER also funds home school and remote education assistance, which can be granted to parents of children from Kindergarten to twelfth grade. This encompasses all kinds of school supplies such as scissors, pens, paper etc. but also microphones, Wi-Fi, and reasonably priced tablets and computers clearly intended for home schooling purposes, Ballard said.They also introduced a tutoring category. Remote learning can be difficult for some children, she said. If they need one-on-one tutoring, AER can help with the funding.Restriction of movement can also cause financial hardships, she said. One person needed emergency leave to go to Africa because her mother had passed away, she said, and the country required her to quarantine in a certain hotel that was pretty pricy. AER helped her cover the cost.AER generally funds funeral expenses, she said. This year, they added a subcategory for the dignified storage of remains, since the crisis delayed some of the processes in the U.S., which can lead to additional costs.For members of the National Guard and Reserve, AER offers assistance with the cost of medical and life insurance premiums, LeMauk said.There are several ways to donate money to the AER, Ballard said. People can donate online at armyemergencyrelief.org or via allotment form. These forms can be obtained with the unit representatives.It is possible to donate via paypal or credit card, she said. One-time donations or repeat donations are both welcome.It is also possible to donate at the PX checkout, she said.The campaign is aimed to receive small and medium amount donations by a large quantity of community members. The idea is “I have my comrades back in more than one way,” LeMauk said. This is why the campaign’s flyer features a Soldier helping another Soldier up.Most Soldiers can access AER directly, she said. There are very few instances of command involvement.The campaign will run through May 15.A 5K Virtual Fun Run May 7-15 will take place to wrap up the campaign. Every participant will receive a racing bib to state their personal reason for donating. Photos with this bib can be posted to the ACS Facebook page, Ballard said.“I want to encourage everyone to participate in the 5K Virtual Fun Run,” she said. “Don't miss out on this great opportunity to win an AER medal and to support our Soldiers and their families, while having some fun and raising awareness. I can't wait to see your 5K Fun Run photos and read the messages about why you donate written on your bibs.”Community members with questions about the campaign or AER in general can call ACS at 0611-143-548-9201 or DSN 540-9201 and ask for the AER officer, or send a message at the ACS Facebook page.