By Joan VaseyMarch 7, 2013
The annual Army Emergency Relief Campaign on Fort Huachuca began Friday at Army Community Service with a unit coordinator kick-off meeting, and continues through May 15. This year's campaign slogan is: "Supporting Soldiers and Their Families, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow." During this period, each trained coordinator has the goal of 100 percent face-to-face contact with those in his or her entire unit or organization.
AER, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1942, is dedicated solely to "Helping the Army Take Care of its Own" by providing financial assistance to Soldiers and their Families, according to the AER website, www.aerhq.org.
Last year, AER disbursed $76.8 million in assistance to more than 59,000 Soldiers and their Families. About 38 percent of that assistance was obtained through the command referral program, which gives company commanders and first sergeants the authority to approve up to $1,500 in interest-free loans for their Soldiers.
AER funding is available to: Soldiers on extended active duty; U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard on orders for continuous active duty for more than 30 consecutive days; Army retirees; eligible Family members of the aforementioned Soldiers; surviving spouses and orphans of Soldiers who died while on active duty or after retirement.
Annually the campaign replenishes its resources through donations. Fort Huachuca's minimum goal for the 2013 campaign is $100,000 according to Teresa Spencer, U.S. Army Garrison AER officer.
"That's our minimum, but we'd like to raise more than that," she said.
The AER officer is optimistic that, in spite of the potential of employee furlough, the 2013 AER will meet or exceed its goal.
"Tough times such as furloughs and budget cuts best touch peoples' hearts," Spencer explained. "These situations propel folks to want to give more."
Contributions may be by allotment, cash, check or online with a credit card via the website, www.aerhq.org. Soldiers who choose to contribute by allotment can spread their donation out over time, up to 12 months.
Spencer explained that although the campaign officially ends in May, retirees and others continue to make donations throughout the year, which adds to the overall amount collected and counts towards the campaign goal. Fort Huachuca typically gives out far more than the collected campaign amount in financial assistance.
"I am so grateful that what is collected at installations is not all we're allowed to give out," Spencer said.
Last year, through Fort Huachuca's AER program, recipients received more than $750 thousand in loans, about six times more than the campaign took in, she explained. There is no limit on the amount of assistance that can be provided or on the number of times a Soldier may make requests for assistance. Loans and grants are based on need.
In addition to money raised through the official campaign, AER funds are generated from repayment of AER loans, unsolicited contributions from members of the general public and investment income from funds currently not in demand for assistance.
Spencer explained that people may donate to AER at any time during the year.
"People can make a one-time donation. Even if they want to donate only $5, there is no minimum," she stated. Anyone, both military and civilian, can donate, but only the Soldiers will be contacted face-to-face, Spencer said.
The Army and AER conduct an annual campaign, in part, to continually increase the awareness of all Soldiers, active and retired, and their Families about AER's programs and benefits. It also shares information about how to obtain assistance if the need arises. Finally, the AER campaign informs Soldiers how their fund operates and their contributions result in Soldiers helping Soldiers.
AER assistance includes:
• emergency funds for rent, food, travel, car repair, funeral, medical and dental expenses
• children and spouse scholarships
• grants to Soldiers medically evacuated from Afghanistan
• support to Families of fallen Soldiers
• repair of heating and air-conditioning systems
• travel funds for permanent change of station when advances are not forthcoming
• repair or purchase of stoves or refrigerators
• purchase of child car seats
• purchase of cranial helmets when prescribed by medical authority and not authorized by TRICARE
In 2012 nearly 88 cents of every dollar spent by AER was spent on assistance programs, 9.8 cents went to payroll and other administrative costs, and the remaining 2.5 cents went to cover fundraising expenses.
Civilians who want to donate to AER may contact Spencer at 533.2330 and make donations through her office at Army Community Service, which has AER program oversight. ACS is located in Building 50010, on Smith Street.