Your AFAF contribution helps Airmen in need

  • Published
  • By Mark Harrell
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
(The 2009 Air Force Assistance Fund campaign at Vance runs from March 9 through April 17. The Air Force Aid Society is one of four organizations that receive support from AFAF.)

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Comedian Bob Hope once said, "If you haven't got charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble." 

I have contributed to the Air Force Aid Society through the AFAF campaign for more than 20 years now and I have also been one of their campaign representatives. I have seen first-hand the benefits of this vital organization. 

Donations to the AFAS for 2008 totaled just over $7 million. You may think that is a lot of money, but in 2008 alone, they provided $13.7 million in support of emergency assistance, almost $8 million in educational assistance and about $2.6 million in community enhancement programs. 

That is $24.3 million in direct support to more than 45,000 Airmen and their families.
Those figures just don't add-up. How was AFAS able to provide 100 percent emergency assistance, plus additional support for education and community enhancement programs? They used paybacks from existing interest-free loans and investment-fund income. This is one reason why it is so critical we continue giving. 

The result of the 2008 fund drive for AFAS was $5 million with just over 20 percent active duty participation. I do not know about you, but doesn't 20 percent participation by active duty Airmen seem kind of low? Especially when you take into consideration that AFAS's main reason for existence is to help Air Force members in their time of need. Can you imagine the impact if twice as many active duty members contributed? 

If you're active duty, retired, the spouse or widow of a retired member or the family member of an active duty Airman who died on active duty, you qualify for assistance. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel on extended duty more than 15 days who are away from their home station also qualify. 

Emergency financial assistance is given when an individual cannot pay for short term, specific basic needs. Examples of these needs include food and utilities, emergency travel, funeral expenses, vehicle repair when it is the member's only means of transportation and medical or dental expenses when a lump sum is required prior to needed treatment. 

Once assistance is approved, an assessment is made to determine if help will be in the form of an interest free loan, a grant or a combination of the two. 

I have personally had two individuals who directly worked for me unexpectedly fall on hard times and needed financial help. Both were young married Airmen and both were living from paycheck to paycheck. The father of one passed away suddenly and needed help with airline tickets. The other individual's only means of transportation needed repair. 

They both qualified for and received emergency assistance. 

Generously giving to AFAS can help our Airmen alleviate their financial hardship, which in turn, helps them stay focused on the Air Force mission. 

We all know problems will arise and when they do, we want help as soon as possible. That is why the AFAS maintains an open-door policy. They want to encourage Airmen of all ranks to apply for assistance when they feel an emergency exists. They want to ensure that when problems in life do occur, duty performance is not adversely affected. 

Approximately 85 percent of the emergency assistance dollars in 2008 alone went to active duty members and their families in grades E-6 and below. That is more than 38,000 airman basics through technical sergeants that received help when they desperately needed it. 

English author Samuel Johnson said, "He who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do anything." 

It does not matter whether the sum is great or small. It is important to just give.