FORT SILL, Oklahoma — The Emergency Relief Campaign is truly Soldiers helping Soldiers and organizers are hoping Soldiers put teams together for the upcoming AER bowling tournament.
“We are looking for teams for the inaugural bowling tournament at the Twin Oaks Bowling Center Wednesday, March 1, at 4 p.m. for the Army Emergency Relief Campaign Kickoff,” said Daniel Farrell, AER assistant and campaign coordinator, Army Community Service.
Each battalion/ brigade headquarters/ tenant / directorate can have a four-person team. Teams will bowl free and refreshments will be provided. The winning team will be awarded the “coveted” AER Bowling Tournament trophy.
Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, executive director for AER, is kicking off the Army-wide campaign from Fort Sill this year, said Farrell.
The AER campaign runs through May 15. The program has been around for 80 years and has given nearly $2 billion in funds to help more than four million overcome financial hardships.
AER helps with zero-interest loans for more than 30 categories of assistance and emergency situations. Some common reasons include: one-time rent payment, car repairs, utilities, some medical and dental payments, PCS travel and COVID assistance, as well as other unforeseen emergencies. The organization also provides education scholarships for Soldiers’ spouses and children.
“In 2022, more than 20,000 Soldiers and retired Soldiers received about $50 million in AER assistance,” said Farrell. “Almost $9 million was provided as grants, and more than $35 million in loans and grants was provided to active-duty Soldiers and their families.”
Farrell said an additional $15 million was provided in educational scholarships for dependent children and spouses.
“This program is helping Soldiers, family members, retirees, survivors, wounded warriors — we’re looking at this whole population of people. You just never know if you may need AER for something,” he said.
The AER campaign serves two purposes. One is to raise money through donations from Soldiers and civilians. The money is given back in zero-interest loans or grants to Soldiers when they need it. The second, or primary goal, of the campaign is to inform 100% of the Soldiers on Fort Sill of the benefit AER provides to them and ensure they know how to receive help through the organization.
AER promotes financial readiness and helps relieve distress of Soldiers and their families by providing grants, interest-free loans and scholarships.
“The AER program is one of the most important programs the Army has for helping Soldiers and helping leaders. I’ve used it a lot with Soldiers in the past and it helps them with their peace of mind when they are going through financial distress,” said Sgt. Zack Mason, 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, 30th ADA Brigade. “It’s super important that this program is mainstreamed to Soldiers and to leaders so we can help Soldiers get through those issues.”
AER is rated a four-star charity by Charity Navigator, putting it in the top 10 percent among U.S. charities, with 90 cents of every dollar donated going directly to programs that support Soldiers and Army families.
Soldiers, retirees, and surviving family members can reach out to the Fort Sill Army Community Service office at 580-442-4916 to begin the process or determine eligibility for the emergency financial situation.
Soldiers and government civilians can contribute to the AER campaign through May 13 by filling out donation forms supplied within their units or by going online and giving at https://give.armyemergencyrelief.org/FTSILL.
For more on the AER Annual Campaign, go to https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign.