Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, director of Army Emergency Relief, and Maj. Gen. Rodney Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, endorse the 2020 AER fundraising campaign proclamation at a Lee Theater kickoff event Feb. 27. Standing by to add her signature is Garrison Commander Col. Holly Martin. Speaking at the event, Mason reviewed the many ways AER is helping the Army Family. It gave out $180,000 in scholarships to Team Lee members last year, and the combined total of loans and grants here is just under $1 million. The agency is introducing new categories of assistance like dental care for dependents, car seats for children, spouse professional licensure reimbursements, and more. “From the beginning, this has been about helping Soldiers and their families facing financial hardships. That’s still our mission statement today,” Mason emphasized. It’s the agency’s focus that has shifted from yesteryear’s collecting and dolling out money behind the scenes to ensuring Soldiers are educated on the types of help they can receive and the simplicity of which they can request it, including a direct-access request. Mason spoke at length about unhindered access, unscrupulous money lenders and getting past the stigma of asking for help. The first of his two final points was the revelation that only 7 percent of the Army community contributes to AER, compared to the sea and air services that are somewhere around 40 percent. He noted the team could do better at taking care of its own through AER contributions and that it aligns with the promise to take care of our own. Lastly, Mason said, “This campaign is really not about money. We have changed the metric (of 100-percent contacted). Now, it’s 100-percent informed because knowledge is power and more Soldiers and families will get the help they need.” Fort Lee has set a fundraising goal of $118,000 this year. The campaign continues through May 15. Donations are tax deductible and can be made online at www.aerhq.org or by contacting unit AER project officers.