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Commentary | May 7, 2010

Airmen taking care of Airmen

By Capt. Cheryl Barnes AFAF Installation Alternate

The Air Force Assistance Fund campaign is quickly coming to an end. Langley's drive was scheduled to run from March 29 to May 7; however, we have extended the drive until May 20. The AFAF is an annual, on-the-job fundraising campaign conducted amongst Air Force personnel for the benefit of Airmen and their families.

There are four charities included in the campaign. The Air Force Enlisted Village has been home to more than 1,500 surviving spouses since 1975. The Air Force Village has contributed more than $12 million in confidential support to indigent widows since 1970. The LeMay Foundation has given more than $445,000 in grants to augment incomes that fall below the poverty line to enlisted and officer retirees and their families. The most familiar charity to our community is the Air Force Aid Society.

The AFAS is the official charity of the United States Air Force, incorporated in 1942 as a non-profit organization whose mission is to help relieve the financial distress of Air Force members and their families. It also provides scholarships to Air Force dependents, assisting in financing higher education.

The roots of the society date back to 1942, in response to Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold's concern that members of his Army Air Corps faced unique hardships in meeting the challenges of World War II. He envisioned a national organization that could provide emergency assistance to the wives and children of war victims and assure the availability of educational opportunities to those families.

The AFAS has always relied on individual donations to fund its activities. Air Force members have generously contributed to the society throughout its 68-year history. Every dollar donated to AFAS supports its' emergency assistance programs. Active duty and retired Air Force members and their dependents are eligible for assistance in the form of interest-free loans and grants, as are the dependents of Air Force personnel who died while on active duty or retired status. Air National Guard and Reserve Airmen on extended active duty of 15 or more days are also entitled to financial aid arising from emergency situations related to their activation.

Most of us are familiar with AFAS providing assistance to our members in financial need, but do you know the other programs that they support? How many of us have deployed with a free calling card? Have you or a family member received a free oil change or child care? Do you have a child who has applied for the Hap Arnold scholarship?

These are just a few of the programs supported by Air Force Aid Society. Last year, Langley received more than $345,000 in loans and grants for Air Force personnel in financial distress. The most requested assistance was for rent and mortgage, followed by vehicle repairs. AFAS provided $43,000 for community enhancement programs such as "Bundles for Babies," vehicle maintenance and child care. Additionally, many college-bound dependents received $74,000 in scholarship/grant programs.

The AFAS has touched each and every member of Team Langley. AFAS assisted more than 42,000 Air Force members and their families in 2009, with more than $21.6 million. AFAS is there when you need them -- can we say the same to them? Currently, Langley has collected only $75,000 of their goal of $163,000. Please see your unit project officer to make a donation. The campaign will run through May 20.