By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — In the early 1990s a young second lieutenant stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, with a pregnant wife, faced a family emergency requiring immediate action.
His grandmother died in California, but his budget was not prepared for the expense of returning for the funeral. Fortunately, somebody connected him to Air Force Assistance Fund resources for a low interest loan and he was able to make the trip to be with his family at that pivotal time. That Airman was 21st Space Wing Commander Col. Doug Schiess.
He shared his story during the AFAF fundraising campaign kickoff breakfast April 12 at the Club on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The campaign officially began April 10 and runs until May 19.
“I want to encourage people to tell their stories,” Schiess said. “Things like that happen, things you cannot afford because you’re not tracking that. But there are agencies to give help.”
Money raised in the campaign goes to four charities: Air Force Villages Charitable Foundation, Air Force Enlisted Village, Air Force Aid Society, and the LeMay Foundation. These organizations provide assistance to retired Airmen, surviving spouses and Airmen with emergency needs.
“We want to make sure military members do not have to worry about financial issues that take their focus away from their mission,” said Victor Villarreal, Peterson AFB Air Force Aid Society officer. “A clear mind about finances is a clear mind about the mission.”
Team Pete Airmen benefitted from AFAF funds to the tune of $132,680 in 2016, according to figures provided by AFAS headquarters. The totals include emergency assistance loans, grants and various community programs. The average for emergency assistance funding was about $482 per assist.
“What I like is that these funds are for needs in our own backyard,” said 2nd Lt. Erica Luke, 21st Space Wing assistant installation officer for the AFAF campaign. “I am really excited. The money speaks for itself, as far as the programs go.”
Capt. Kevin Mitchell, 21st SW installation officer for the AFAF campaign, said the goal for the campaign is to raise $69,350 in pledges from Team Pete.
“That is less than the need, so I think we could do better and meet the need,” he said. “This is a community who contributes, a community who gives.”
Typically about 20-25 percent of the base population donates to the fund, Mitchell said. If 20 percent of them made what he referred to as a “drive through” donation of $10 per month for one year, giving would surpass the goal by about $15,000.
“We could provide resources to someone who really needs them,” said Mitchell. “Last year one family was assisted with two funerals.”
Villarreal explained how the fund continues to operate when donations are less than needs. One way is through donations made by other organizations and agencies. Another is from interest on investments.
Funds are also gained from royalties on books written by benefactors.
During the campaign Mitchell said AFAF representatives will attempt to personally contact everyone they can to ask for a contribution and tell them about at least one of the associated charities.
“So often when you donate, you don’t know where the money goes,” he said. “This money will go to Airmen and their families.”
All personnel on temporary duty will be made aware of the campaign and that they can participate if they wish. Deployed personnel will receive an email, not seeking donations, but rather letting them know the campaign is going on so that if the Airman, or their family, has a need it can be met, said Mitchell.
They will know someone at Peterson will help take care of them,” he said.
Villarreal said his staff is available on base around the clock and keeping matters confidential is a priority. To find out how to donate he suggested contacting the designated squadron AFAF representative.
Donations can also be made online by visiting www. afassisstancefund.org and filling out the AF 2561 form.
For more information contact the Airman & Family Readiness Center at (719) 556-6141.