The annual Army Emergency Relief campaign runs from March 1 to May 15. AER receives no federal funding, and 90 cents of every dollar donated through the campaign goes right back to Soldiers. According to AER officials, every $10 donated turns into $30 of assistance. (Courtesy artwork)
Fort Drum Soldiers encouraged to support annual Army Emergency Relief campaign
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 2, 2021) – The annual Army Emergency Relief campaign kicked off March 1 at Fort Drum without the traditional gathering of AER representatives to discuss program changes or a motivational speech from a senior leader.
Not acknowledging a program that has provided Soldiers and their families with more than $4 billion in financial assistance since 1942 might have been seen as a huge misstep if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
Michael Ferguson, Fort Drum AER officer, said that they avoided a large gathering to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocol and opted instead for a different approach to inform Soldiers about the campaign.
“What we are doing this year is conducting small brigade command sergeant major briefings, with the brigade and battalion CSMs and their respective AER campaign coordinators in attendance,” he said. “We provide program updates, focus on campaign goals, answer questions and distribute campaign materials to educate campaign coordinators about AER.”
Ferguson said that the 2021 campaign goal is to raise $150,000 and, as in past years, inform 100 percent of the Soldiers and family members in the 10th Mountain Division about AER.
“We fell short of our goal last year (raising $144,000),” he said. “But all things considered we did a great job under the COVID circumstances, and we still got the word out to all of our Soldiers and families.”
AER provides more than $50 million in zero-interest loans and $10 million in grants to more than 45,000 Soldiers annually. An additional $10 million in educational scholarships is awarded to Army spouses and children.
Ferguson said that they were able to support Soldiers financially impacted by the pandemic, especially during the prolonged PCS (permanent change of station) season when families needed help covering unexpected travel expenses.
“AER also introduced Program of Child Care and Home Schooling to assist families that were financially impacted by COVID-19,” Ferguson said. “We assisted several home-schooling families with the technical means (laptop computers) and the online educational programs required by the New York state educational system. This assistance was primarily provided as a grant. The child care assistance was not as widely utilized, as our on-post child development centers were able to do a phenomenal job and keep up with demands and needs.”
Ferguson said that it is important for Soldiers to know that AER can support them in an emergency, and that assistance is available 24/7, worldwide.
“Contact us first,” he said. “Give us a chance to address the need, and please keep our Soldiers and families away from the predatory lenders.”
The AER campaign runs through May 15, and donations can be made online at https://give.armyemergencyrelief.org/FTDRUM. For more information about AER, visit www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign.