By Anna Ciccotti (Fort Carson)August 16, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- "Army Emergency Relief is all about Soldiers helping Soldiers and there is nothing more important than Soldiers helping Soldiers," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, during the AER recognition ceremony held at the Elkhorn Conference Center Aug. 9.
The Fort Carson 2012 AER campaign, which ended June 15, exceeded its funding goal of $250,000. The final total raised of $264,415.05 is 5.76 percent higher than the set goal and 109.85 percent more than last year's total contribution of $126,000.
"We are more than happy with this year's accomplishments because we actually were able to double what we did last year," said Fred Lewis, AER officer at Fort Carson.
1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and 1st Bn., 22nd Inf. Reg., and 1st Bn., 66th Armor Reg., both with 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., were the biggest contributors to the campaign this year, raising a combined total of $46,419.56.
"We appreciate what you did with your energy and enthusiasm to make the campaign a success," Anderson said recognizing the military and civilian personnel who contributed to this year's achievements. "AER is a way of lending a helping hand and assisting those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Once again you demonstrated what this place is all about by doing that, particularly in a time of economic hardships. … You set a high standard for next year's campaign so let's stay focused on that," he said.
Since its creation in 1942, Anderson said AER has helped more than 3.2 million Soldiers, Family members, retirees, surviving spouses and orphans with more than $1 billion. Overall, last year AER gave out more than $1.9 million in financial assistance to more than 2,000 Soldiers at Fort Carson.
The emergency needs that can qualify for a loan or grant vary from rent and mortgage payments, utilities, car repair, medical, dental and funeral bills or purchase of basic furniture.
For the Fort Carson community, AER is especially important to Soldiers who have home-related emergencies, Lewis said.
"This is a high-cost area and we assist Soldiers with interest-free loans. AER stops (Soldiers) from going downtown to get assistance from predatory lenders who charge about 29-30 percent interest rate," he said.
In effect, more than 900 requests have been submitted this year and Lewis said he expects AER to be able to assist with them all.
As the annual campaign allows Soldiers to help their fellow Soldiers, the role of financial counselors is key to create a greater awareness of AER programs and benefits at the unit level.
What made the difference this year was a better understanding that "the donations are from the Soldiers and the funds are used by the Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Ryan McGeorge, 43rd Special Troops Bn., 43rd Sustainment Brigade, one of the command financial counselors who helped with campaign promoting efforts. "The word got out and Soldiers would realize that all the money that they are donating eventually will help another Soldier here on post."
"You have to have a real financial need for it," said counselor Staff Sgt. Sandy Baron, 3rd Bn., 16th Field Artillery Reg., 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. "You have to be able to show that you are not wasting away any money."
In this sense, the AER program helps by giving Soldiers, especially the younger ones, a perspective of their financial situation.
"A lot of Soldiers don't know how much money they are spending eating out or how much money they are actually spending on gas," Baron said. "Helping them with those budgets is vitally important and it gets them more involved with their finances."
Visit http://www.aerhq.org for more information on eligibility and assistance available.