Air Force Aid Society reaches 75th anniversary

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The Air Force Aid Society’s 75th anniversary was celebrated Air Force-wide March 9.

The society was created in 1942 by Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, then-commanding General of the Army Air Forces, and his wife, Bee.  It was originally named the Army Air Forces Aid Society.  The organization was established to provide financial support for families of Army Air Force service members who lost their lives during World War II.

As the official charity of the Air Force, the society now provides worldwide emergency assistance to eligible active duty and retired members of all service branches and their dependents, and to dependents of members who died on active duty or in a retired status.

AFAS promotes the Air Force mission by helping "to relieve distress of Air Force members and their families and assisting them to finance their education," according to their website.

AFAS is a private non-profit organization funded by private donations.

“In life, we all encounter emergency situations we’re often unprepared for,” said Suzette Ellington, AFAS officer.  “AFAS is in place to help in those situations.  The ultimate goal is to keep our patrons mission-ready.”

Ellington said there are no rank restrictions in receiving assistance.

“We assess all of our patrons’ needs and help from there,” she said.

One of the many community programs the AFAS offers to ease some of the stresses affecting Airmen and their families is bundles for babies.  This course teaches new parents basic parenting skills, as well as essential financial skills to help them budget for their new baby, from birth to college.

The AFAS also offers two interest-free loans, depending on eligibility and individual situations.

A Falcon loan, established to prevent going to a payday loan agency; and a standard emergency assistance loan or grant.

Patrons commonly seek AFAS assistance for basic living expenses like car repairs and rent, according to Ellington.

The AFAS loaned or granted more than $273,000 to the Eglin community in 2016.

Tech. Sgt. Joy Garrett, 96th Force Support Squadron, utilized AFAS services when a family tragedy left her in need of assistance.

“I just PCS’ed to Eglin and while I was getting situated, I found out that my father had passed away,” said the New York native.  “I went to the A&FRC and spoke to Suzette.  Through the AFAS, she helped me get a plane ticket and I was home within 24 hours.”

With their help, she was able to avoid the stress associated with immediate travel.

“I would recommend the AFAS to all Airmen here,” said the 14-year veteran.  “It can bring peace of mind for the young Airman who doesn’t have the financial means to take care of a sudden situation like mine.”     

Ellington said she usually sees a spike in assistance requests during the holidays and at the beginning of the year.

 “We’re here to help get our patrons with immediate emergency needs stabilized and get them back on track,” Ellington said.

The AFAS is one of four donations avenues available during the Air Force Assistance Fund campaign, which runs from March 27 to May 5.

Donations are also accepted through the Air Force Villages Charitable Foundation, the Air Force Enlisted Village and the Lemay foundation.

 AFAF scheduled events are:

The AFAF Kickoff is March 27 at the Bayview Club at 8 a.m.

The AFAF 5k run/walk is March 31 at Unity Park Pavilion.  Showtime is 6:45 a.m.  It is open to all personnel with base access.

An AFAF mini-biathlon is Saturday, May 13.  Participants must arrive by 8:45 a.m.  The start time is 9 a.m.  The biathlon consists of a 200-meter swim and a five-mile run.  The race is free, but contributions are encouraged.  It is open to all personnel with base access.

Active duty and civilian personnel can donate through their unit’s AFAF project officer.

For more information on the events, call 875-1445 or (317) 697-1710.

For more information about the Air Force Aid Society, call 882-9060.