By Paul Hughes
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart
You may think the worst could never happen to you, but if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what might happen next. During 2020, the Army Emergency Relief (AER) fund assisted someone from almost every branch of military service with unexpected immediate financial needs such as; rent, utilities, emergency travel, and more.
The private, nonprofit organization has provided monetary help for Army active duty, retirees, and their families since its establishment in 1942. Because USAG
Stuttgart is a joint community, AER extends its services to assist all service members serving here, regardless of their branch affiliation. According to AER’s Financial Readiness Program Counselor, Arcelio V. Alleyne, 85 percent of service members’ needs can be met through their Quick Assist Program.
“Every company commander and first sergeant has the authority to approve an AER loan of up to $2,000,” said Alleyne. “Anyone struggling financially should ask for help.”
The most common assistance requests are for vehicle repair and maintenance, initial deposit and rent payment, basic living expenses, emergency travel, and permanent change of station (PCS) related expenses. But Alleyne said in 2020 they helped multiple community members struggling with funding for emergency
travel and housing costs due to the coronavirus crisis. To supplement AER’s mission, a fundraising campaign is held every year from March to May; however, the 2020 campaign was impacted severely by COVID-19.
“2020 was a challenge because of the COVID restrictions. The closure of the installation came around the start of the AER Campaign, literally shutting down the campaign until July 1st,” said Alleyne. “AER headquarters extended the campaign through July to give all installations a chance to reboot the Campaign.“
The plan to extend the campaign worked in Stuttgart where the community donated more than the previous two years combined, according to Alleyne.
Last year AER was able to provide nearly $100,000 in emergency relief to service members in Stuttgart, including more than $25,000 in grants to the community. While 2020 ended up being a success, the 2021 AER campaign faces many of the same COVID-19 challenges and Alleyne is again issuing a rallying cry.
“Even though six times as many people donated in 2020 than in 2019, we still need more participation from individual units and motivated key personnel in those units,” said Alleyne.
This year’s fundraising campaign will run from March 1 until May 15. The donations you make could very well end up helping your neighbor or battle buddy. Service members, DOD civilians, contractors and other community members can contribute to the campaign. Donations can be made at the Post Exchange cash registers in increments of $1, $5 and $10, or you can enter a custom amount and make online donations in $5 increments during checkout at ShopMyExchange.com.
Donations help active-duty service members and dependents, retirees, surviving spouses and orphans of service members who died while on active duty, or after they retired with food, rent, funeral expenses, emergency medical expenses and more.
“Receiving AER assistance will not affect promotions, security clearances or schooling,” said Alleyne. “All eligible members can come to AER confidentially.”