WASHINGTON — In spite of persistent economic difficulties, active-duty and retired Airmen have contributed more than $6 million to the Air Force Assistance Fund, or AFAF, during this year’s fund drive.
Although the annual AFAF drive has yet to garner this year’s $6.4 million goal, contributions continue to roll in from the 79 assistance fund campaigns around the world. Those donations, coupled with retiree and annuitant contributions, may make the difference, said Bill D’Avanzo, from the Air Force Personnel Center.
According to 1st Lt. Ainslie A. Vizcarra, who along with 2nd Lt. Luke Dorlac served as Hill Air Force Base’s points of contact for the 2014 AFAF that ran March-April, Hill ended short of its goal of $72,000 but did raise $44,751.43 toward the annual campaign.
“It was a bit difficult financially,” Lieutenant Vizcarra said of Hill AFB’s 2014 campaign which was officially closed out in July. “With all the economic uncertainty going on in the military (budget cuts, force shaping, etc.), members were hesitant to donate a lot or even at all.”
Even though the AFAF drive has closed for the active-duty members, it remains open for the retiree’s year-round to submit contributions through the mail.
While the overall totals to date paint a sobering picture that may be indicative of the current economy and financial uncertainty that permeates the U.S. and its government right now, officials said they also show the Air Force takes care of its own.
“Times are tough and many of our fellow Airmen are in need,” D’Avanzo said. “The fact that Airmen are still giving means they are giving sacrificially and it proves to me that we truly are a family.”
All the money donated to AFAF directly supports Airmen and their families through four key programs:
• The General and Mrs. Curtis E. LeMay Foundation helps Air Force retirees’ widows, both officer and enlisted, with grants of assistance whenever needed.
• The Air Force Enlisted Village provides a safe and secure place for surviving spouses of retired Air Force service members.
• The Air Force Village provides a comfortable and affordable retirement community for the widowed spouses of retired Air Force officers.
• The Air Force Aid Society provides worldwide emergency assistance to members and their families, sponsors educational assistance programs and offers base community programs to improve Airman and family welfare.
An example of the impact these charities have on Airmen comes from prior-enlisted member, Maj. Jim Murtha, a 811th Force Support Squadron operations officer.
As an airman first class at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, his wife — then pregnant with their twin daughters — ran into a very tight financial situation.
The family was under extreme stress expecting two children at once, which would double their new baby needs (two cribs, two high chairs, two car seats, and more). In addition, they had a 10-year old car that kept breaking down and a home to pay for.
Murtha’s first sergeant referred him to the Air Force Aid Society representative who put him at ease, helped put his family on the right path, offered financial counseling, provided information on food pantries as well as contacts for a support group for parents of twins.
“We were overwhelmed by the support we received from the Air Force Aid Society and 21 years later, we continue to support them during the AFAF annual campaign,” Murtha said. “AFAF has been a blessing to my family and me.”
Murtha said donors not only give money but something even more important. They give hope.
“I believe donating to the AFAF is like donating blood,” Murtha said. “You have no idea who will need it but you know someone will, and when you’re on the receiving end of that donation, it’s life-saving.”
For more information regarding the four charities sponsored by AFAF please visit http://www.afassistancefund.org/.