WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 22, 2010) -- Across the Army, Soldiers and families are donating funds to the Haiti relief effort by passing the collection basket during chapel services.

The Army's chief of chaplains requested that money collected during services at Army chapels this month be donated to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief fund. A memorandum sent Jan. 14 to all Army garrison and medical center chaplains asked that designated offerings for Haiti relief be collected at chapel services not later than Jan. 31.

"Every week, there are nearly 1,000 worship services in our chapels," said Lt. Col. Charleton Birch, who provides strategic communications for the Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains. He said about 50,000 Soldiers and their family members typically attend the services.

Normally, chapel collections are designated at the local level, Birch explained. But in the past, Army-wide collections were taken for survivors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami the year before.

Army chapels raised about $400,000 for Katrina relief, Birch said.

"They want to show their compassion and caring for the larger community," Birch said of Army congregations and all who attend chapel services.

Collections at military chapels typically go back to the community, Birch said. Since local commanders have the responsibility to provide support to chapels and donations are not needed to pay the salary of chaplains, there's more opportunity for congregations on post to use their collections to support charities.

Birch pointed out that Army congregations of all faiths -- Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim -- are all contributing to the Haiti relief effort.

"This is an opportunity for Soldiers and families to demonstrate the spiritual strength of our Army," Birch said.

The only Army services which will not collect for Haiti are ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, Birch said. Collections are normally not taken there at services in the field, he explained.