Brian Hill | Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office | March 1, 2023
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Missouri — Fort Leonard Wood kicked off its Army Emergency Relief donation campaign on Wednesday during the monthly Community Information Forum in Pershing Community Center.
As the U.S. Army’s official nonprofit, AER provides grants, interest-free loans and scholarships to promote readiness and help relieve any financial distress of Soldiers and their families.
Before filling out his contribution form alongside other senior leaders here, Maj. Gen. James Bonner, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, said AER provides a place to go for those in need — he encouraged leaders throughout the installation to speak with their Soldiers on the value of giving to AER.
“I really do appreciate everyone’s efforts,” Bonner said. “There’s no better place to serve than right here at Fort Leonard Wood, and we take care of our own. I encourage you all to please get the word out, so folks have an opportunity if they want to give.”
This year marks AER’s 81st year, and Fort Leonard Wood AER Officer Chuck Matthews said the goal here is to once again be No. 1 in U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the Army for percentage of donors. The Fort Leonard Wood campaign saw 52 percent of Soldiers participating in 2021 — best in both TRADOC and the Army — and 68 percent in 2022 — best in TRADOC and runner up Army wide.
“We’d like to repeat — or three-peat — this year and be No. 1 in TRADOC and No. 1 in the Army,” Matthews said.
Fort Leonard Wood’s unofficial goal this year, Matthews said, is to have at least 70 percent of the installation’s population give during the campaign. Having all Soldiers informed on the benefits and programs available through AER is an important step to reaching that number.
“We know that’s attainable,” Matthews said. “We can get there and beat every other installation in the Army. We depend on you as leadership and all of your Soldiers to help us pull it off.”
Matthews said Fort Leonard Wood’s AER office assisted 489 Soldiers and retirees here with more than $780,000 in assistance in 2022, and more than $4 million in assistance and scholarships for military spouses and children since 2018. He spoke on the high return on investment AER provides here.
“We raised $190,000 last year, and we assisted Soldiers with just short of $800,000,” he said. “That’s $4.22 in assistance for every dollar we raised in the campaign.”
Matthews also introduced this year’s volunteer campaign coordinators — Capt. Paul Moody and Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Proctor — who will be providing AER briefings to units here.
To help make donating easier for trainees here — who traditionally make up the bulk of Fort Leonard Wood’s donations — Matthews said the AER office pioneered a plan over the past few years involving mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and tablet computers that allow individuals in field conditions or unit facilities to make online donations.
“Our AER section is consistently one of the top two posts for Soldier donation rates over the past five years, primarily due to (initial entry training) Soldier donations,” Matthews said. “We lead the way in making presentations to trainee Soldiers directly in their units, increasing awareness of AER assistance and providing new avenues to donate to the annual campaign.”
Call 573-596-2595 or 0212 to make an AER donation. To request AER assistance, call 573-596-3154. More information on AER is available on their website.
For more on the AER Annual Campaign, go to https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign.