By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
“Helping the Army take care of its own,” has been the Army Emergency Relief’s motto since its inception.
AER, a nonprofit organization, was founded by then Secretary of War and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, has been doing just that since 1942.
On Tuesday during the monthly Command Information Exchange at the Saber & Quill, AER kicked off its annual campaign which begins Saturday and runs through May 15. The program provides financial assistance to Soldiers, retirees and Family members during times of financial strain. All contri-butions are fully tax deductible, and donors can make their contributions to the fund or they can target their contributions to specific programs such as educational scholarships or widow assistance.
Retired Col. Eldon Mullis, the deputy director for administration at the AER headquarters, was one of the speakers at the CIE. Mullis began by telling the audience that life is full of unexpected surprises, and AER is there when those things happen.
“The organization has been around for 72 years, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor,” explained Mullis. “(AER) has helped (more than) 3.5 million Soldiers and spouses and (provided financial assistance of more than) $11.6 billion. Every one of those dollars came from donations.”
He added that last year Fort Knox’s AER assisted more than 600 Soldiers and provided more than $750,000 in financial assistance.
“Army wide (AER) helped 55,000 Soldiers (and provided financial assistance of more than) $74 million,” said Mullis.
Mullis pointed out that last year AER helped more than 11,000 Soldiers and Family members with rent and mortgages.
“(AER) also helped young Soldiers and Family (members) get into a house, not because they were behind (in their mortgages),” he said.
The agency also helped more than 9,000 Soldiers, retirees and Family members with motor vehicle repairs; 8,000 Soldiers with emergency leave; and 7,000 with funeral expenses.
Mullis pointed out that last year a new category was added—dependent dental care and AER provided money to help 293 people. When more than 200 Soldiers were medically evacuated from Afghanistan last year, AER was on hand with a $500 grant to cover expenses while they were in the hospital.
Although AER provides financial assistance to military Families when they are in need, it also has a need-based scholarship program with an average of $2,400 per student.
“(Last year) 139 Fort Knox children and 36 spouses (received scholarship money),” Mullis said.
Shannon Wilson, the Fort Knox AER program director, pointed out that AER constantly tries to find ways to help Soldiers and the goal of the campaign is 100 percent contact.
She added that last year the AER campaign provided $218,417 to the Fort Knox community.
“(That’s) a 6 percent increase (from) 2012,” said Wilson.