Today officially marks the kickoff of the Army Emergency Relief campaign, the most important annual fundraiser for Soldiers.
AER falls under Army Community Service and at Redstone Arsenal is led by Olivia Pierce, financial readiness program manager.
Funded totally by donations, AER provides eligible recipients money for emergencies, just as the name suggests.
Founded in 1942, the organization has provided four million Soldiers with $2 billion in financial aid, half of which poured in after the 9/11 attacks, Pierce said.
Last year, $171,000 was raised for AER at the Arsenal by 424 donors (some of which were big-donor organizations).
“We really blew it out of the water in 2022,” Pierce said.
This year’s AER campaign runs from March 1 to May 15, but donations are accepted year-round.
“The purpose of the campaign is not to bring in a vast amount of donations (during that period),” Pierce said. “The purpose of the campaign is to bring awareness to AER.”
This year’s kickoff will be held during lunch at the March 9 daylong financial symposium at The Summit. AER is providing a free lunch to symposium attendees, Pierce said, adding that the two events are related in more ways than one.
“A lot of the folks we see at AER (requesting financial assistance) are retirees,” often needing help for an emergency due to money mismanagement, Pierce said. “They don’t have emergency savings, those types of things.”
The symposium will provide a plethora of financial tips, the idea being “Let’s teach them how to fish rather than continue to give them a fish,” Pierce said.
But for those who need “fish,” AER can help with loans, in some instances, grants, in some instances, and “groans,” a combination of a grant/loan money, she said.
“The AER goal is to meet a financial need,” she said, or to “fix a problem.”
Some examples of where AER funds go include first month’s rent and deposit for a Soldier whose PCS came unexpectedly or suddenly; mortgage payments, utilities and other bills for a widow who is waiting for government benefits to kick in; or emergency travel.
“A Soldier was called, their mom’s in the hospital with a poor prognosis,” Pierce said, noting that typically cases such as the latter involve “groans,” a combination of interest-free loan and grant.
“For active-duty members, that’s the most common,” she said.
Eligible AER recipients include retired service members, active-duty members, widows of retired service members, and members of the Reserve or National Guard on active orders, she said.
Donations are made directly through the AER website, and no amount is too large or too small, Pierce said. “Any amount is appreciated.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the luncheon, she said, adding that donations will not be solicited at that time.
To make a donation to AER, visit aerhq.org.
To register for the Financial Symposium or AER Kickoff Lunch, visit https://forms.osi.apps.mil/r/mYtsVVcwWc.
For more on the AER Annual Campaign, go to https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign.