• Post kicks off Army Emergency Relief Campaign

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The 2018 Army Emergency Relief Campaign is officially underway through May 15 and Fort Leavenworth has set a goal of $60,000 for the installation to contribute to the overall funds for AER.
    “Here at Fort Leavenworth in 2017, we gave (more than) $354,000 to (235) soldiers, retirees and their family members. We collected $54,000,” said Army Community Service Director Janice Downey. “Although the money goes into a big pot and AER’s not going to let us hang out there, it’s so important to know that it is helping soldiers — soldiers helping soldiers.”
    Officially established Feb. 5, 1942, this is the 76th year for the AER Campaign. ACS Financial Readiness Program Manager Marty Tydings said AER directly reflects Army values.
    “It is the Army’s value system that prompted the formation of the (AER) organization that soldiers take care of one another,” she said. “That is our sole reason for existence.”
    AER is a non-profit organization created to help active-duty soldiers, Reservists, Guardsmen, retirees and service members from other branches with emergency expenses such as rent, food assistance, medical expenses, emergency travel and vehicle repairs through interest-free loans and grants.
    “You can’t get interest-free loans anywhere unless you’re getting it from your family or from a friend,” said AER Campaign Coordinator Capt. André Luiz Kühner. “AER gets their funds from donations and from investments. There is no money that comes from appropriated funds, (or) that comes from Congress to support AER. So, AER has to raise its own funds to support soldiers.”
    Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Fuller said soldiers who receive loans or grants truly are in need of the help.
    “There are loans that come through on a fairly regular basis, and I’ll tell you we’ve taken care of a lot of soldiers in the last couple of years ... and I look through every single one of them,” he said. “I ask a lot of questions. It’s not just a charity where we’re giving out money. We make sure that the soldier really is need of the loan or the grant.”
    In a briefing about AER for key personnel responsible for contacting everyone in their units Feb. 27 at the Frontier Conference Center, Kühner shared the story of when, in his early years of service as an E-5 at Fort Campbell, Ky., he received an AER loan when his car broke down. He said AER did more than just help him repair his car.
    “I didn’t know much about financial planning or money management. I didn’t learn that at home, so AER did more than just help me with the loan to fix my car,” he said. “They also turned me on to financial management classes and over the years through the Army, because my family didn’t teach me growing up, I learned a lot about financial management and financial planning. Therefore now … when an emergency does happen in my family, I’m prepared to take care of that emergency.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Kühner said it’s reasons like his own personal story that prompted AER to make a soldier the coordinator for the 2018 campaign.
    “I understand having been a commander, having been a young soldier that needed that support, having received financial support (and) the financial management support from AER, I understand the significance of AER,” he said.
    Fuller told personnel that he also received help from AER as a young soldier.
    “I had an emergency in my family ... I had a family member die and didn’t have the money for it. They were able to give me a loan to where I was able to go back and spend time with my family while they were mourning the death of my grandfather,” he said.
    Kühner said there is also a local family who is receiving grants so they can stay close to their child who is being treated for leukemia at a children’s hospital.
    “There’s a lot of different things that AER does and there are some really great stories out there,” Kühner said.
    Garrison Commander Col. Marne Sutten asked the key personnel to do whatever it took to make 100 percent contact.
    “I need you guys to think long and hard about the things that this campaign does for our soldiers … I encourage you guys to get out there, contact 100 percent of your individuals, whether or not they’re in your units or if you can talk to your neighbors, things like that because it is an important campaign,” Sutten said.
    Kühner said it’s important to explain what AER is about when the personnel make their contacts.
    “Explain to them that this is how AER raises funds,” he said. “This is soldiers helping soldiers; retirees helping retirees. This is us helping our battle buddies and so it’s really important to support this program. Help your battle buddies and help us to raise those funds by trying to sell it a little bit and explaining the importance of it. (Because) AER gets their money primarily from donations, that makes it even more important to have other folks understand that it’s very important to donate and this really truly is soldiers helping soldiers.”
    To donate, soldiers can contact their unit key person and choose to donate via cash, check or monthly allotment. The public can donate by visiting www.aerhq.org or drop off a cash or check donation to Downey at the ACS office, 600 Thomas Ave.
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