In keeping with the idea of Soldiers helping Soldiers, the Army Emergency Relief financial hardship assistance program will kick off its contribution campaign during a ceremony at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Kelley Hill Recreation Center.
“It’s a rally,” said Ann Pratcher, Fort Benning Army Community Service’s Financial Readiness Program manager. “We want to build the momentum.”
The program provided $3.3 million of assistance through Fort Benning last year, she said.“Our contributions were just under $300,000.” This year’s theme is “Helping to Maintain Army Strong.”
“That’s really what AER is here to do,” Pratcher said. “We take the stress of financial hardship off the Soldier so he or she can concentrate on mission and so they don’t have to worry about family.”
Most of the program’s assistance is given in the form of no-interest loans, but grants are available. The funds can be used for any emergency including food, vehicle repair and maintenance, rent and utilities or travel arrangements.
The campaign officially begins Monday and ends May 15.
Unit project officers are responsible for contacting everyone who is eligible to contribute, Pratcher said. “The idea is to make sure they are aware of AER and its programs and to make sure they have an opportunity to donate if they desire.”
Soldiers and family members can request assistance, which is approved by appointment on a case-by-case need basis, by picking up an application in Building 2633 in Soldiers’ Plaza before 4:30 p.m. Although applications are processed as soon as possible, the wait time is shorter for those who use a command referral, which allows a Soldier’s company commander or first sergeant to be the approval authority for up to $1,000. Pratcher said they strive for a 24-hour turnaround on those. Only command referral requests have a cap.
Emergency leave situations are always processed the same day. After normal duty hours, assistance can be accessed by contacting the Red Cross, while the post staff duty officer should be contacted on training holidays.
AER was founded in 1942 and has provided more than $1.2 billion of financial assistance. Pratcher said the program recently received a coveted four-star rating for the fourth consecutive year from Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest charity evaluator.
“It’s one Soldier reaching out to another Soldier,” Pratcher said.
Call 706-626-0189 or visit www.aerhq.org for more information.