PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (March 6, 2023) – U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey kicked off its Army Emergency Relief campaign with music, food and splashes of color during the AER Color Run on the installation Saturday, March 4.
Nearly 120 runners and walkers participated in the 5K event, which featured a warm-up session for stretching, a disc jockey playing popular music and food for sale. Volunteers at three stations threw cups of colored powder at runners to decorate their white T-shirts and create a visual spectacle during the run.
At the starting line, Command Sgt. Maj. Ernesto Cruz, senior enlisted advisor for the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, spoke about the importance of contributing to AER. As the Army’s own nonprofit organization, it helps Soldiers by alleviating financial distress with grants, zero-interest loans and scholarships to active duty and retired Soldiers and their families.
Cruz noted that AER can help with more than 35 categories of services, such as initial rent, housing expenses, homeschooling and remote-schooling requirements, Cruz said. Over the past year, PoM’s AER program has helped more than 87 families with more than $177,000 in grants and loans.
Cruz challenged the audience to nearly double last year’s $24,000 in AER donations to $45,000. “We don’t like to meet the standard,” he said. “We exceed the standard.”
Army Community Service runs the program at individual bases, and Cruz directed run participants to the ACS tent for more information. Those who did not attend the run, however, can contact Charles Lyons, the PoM AER officer at ACS, any time to inquire about donating.
Without contributions, the program will eventually run out of money, Lyons said, and if that happens, Soldiers in need will turn to payday lenders and banks that charge higher interest rates.
“So, it is always good to donate, no matter if it’s one dollar,” Lyons said.
Lyons said it is also important that community members know AER at PoM can help service members from all branches of the service. Most service members at PoM are students at DLIFLC, and they hail from all branches of military service.
“Here at the Presidio, we work with all aid societies,” Lyons said. “We represent all aid societies and we contact those aid societies when their branch of service needs help. It’s like a family.”
AER has provided more than $2 billion in financial assistance to 4 million Soldiers since 1942. Last year alone, it provided more than $65 million in assistance to 31,000 Soldiers and families. AER’s Career Skills Programs provided $2.1 million in grants to retiring and separating Soldiers, helping ease their transition into the civilian workforce.
The organization can usually help with emergency needs for rent; utilities (not including cable); food; emergency and PCS travel; personal vehicle repair; up-front funeral expenses of parents, spouse, or child; emergency medical or dental expenses.
AER cannot help with nonessential needs; ordinary leave or vacation; fines or legal expenses; debt payments; home purchase or improvements; purchase, rental, or lease of a vehicle; funds to cover bad checks; marriage or divorce.