2021 Air Force Assistance Fund campaign about to kick off at Wright-Patt

Contributions lend critical support to active-duty, retirees

With a theme of “Taking Care of Our Own – For Airmen and Guardians, By Airmen and Guardians,” the 48th annual Air Force Assistance Fund campaign at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base kicks off March 15 and runs through April 23.

The annual AFAF campaign raises funds for affiliated charities that assist active-duty, Reserve, Guard, and retired Air Force and Guardian personnel and their families, said Lt. Col. Barbara Shephard, a logistics readiness officer assigned to the Air Force Institute of Technology’s School of Systems and Logistics as a course director. She is serving as the 2021 AFAF installation project officer, along with Maj. Gordon Randall, the 88th Comptroller Squadron’s director of operations.

“Our primary goal is to make 100% contact with all potential donors, and our monetary goal is $108,736,” she said.

The overall goal for the 2021 AFAF campaign is to raise $4.57 million, said John Roth, acting secretary of the Air Force.

“In the current COVID-19 environment, our key workers are limited from going desk-to-desk to share with their fellow Airmen and Guardians about the great good being done through the four charities for the Department of the Air Force,” he said. “That makes this goal more difficult to attain, but we are up to the challenge.”

The campaign’s four Air Force charities include the General and Mrs. Curtis E. LeMay Foundation, Air Force Enlisted Village, Air Force Villages Charitable Foundation and Air Force Aid Society.

“When the pandemic struck, our four charities launched into immediate action,” Roth said. “The Air Force Villages Charitable Foundation and Air Force Enlisted Village ramped up staff to keep their facilities disinfected, safeguard staff and residents, and deliver medications and groceries right to the doors of those in need. The LeMay Foundation provided a stipend for all of their surviving spouse clients to help them pay for the added expenses of medication and grocery deliveries. The Air Force Aid Society provided $2 million in support to Airmen, Guardians and their families impacted by COVID-19.”

Project officers will ask members wishing to donate to do so directly on AFAF’s website at www.afassistancefund.org/index.php/donate/, by texting “AFAF” to 50155 or scanning a QR code from one of the many posters around base. Civilians cannot be solicited for donations but are invited to contribute.

The e-giving platforms allow members to donate one time or monthly to any of the four charities using a credit or debit card. The site also provides instructions on sending a check, cashier’s check or money order. Active-duty and eligible guardsmen/reservists can make a deduction up to 12 months; retirees can make a yearlong retired-pay deduction.

Shephard said she is excited to help coordinate the campaign – for a very personal reason.

She knows firsthand what it means to be an AFAS beneficiary. When she was a young, single mother and senior Airman at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, in 1999, she was told by her first sergeant that the American Red Cross had called with an urgent message: her 5-year-old son, Cameron Matthews, in Florida had a bone infection and would need a mastoidectomy within the next few days.

The Air Force Aid Society immediately provided Shephard with the next available airline ticket to Florida, to be repaid through a 12-month, zero-interest loan. Fortunately, when Cameron awoke from surgery, his mother was standing by his side.

“Most E-4s and below don’t even know about the Air Force Aid Society,” Shephard said. “That’s what is so important about this campaign. We’re so grateful for our key workers who will be out there, explaining about the AFAS and the other charities.”

Cameron made a full recovery and is now 27, with a significant scar behind his ear that his mother sees daily. It reminds her of just what AFAS did for her.

“It really made me feel like part of the Air Force family; I felt very taken care of,” she said. “I’ve always prided myself on being strong and able to take care of business, but when you get that phone call, you feel very alone.

“Even now, I remember how I felt when I was notified about Cameron, that worry and that fear, and I still remember the look on my son’s face when he saw me standing there. I’m an O-5 now, and that experience still motivates me to make a difference in the Air Force by giving back. It has affected my career in a very real, positive way. I never wanted to leave the Air Force after that.”

Even a $5 donation can go far in somebody’s life, Shephard added.

“This program is about who benefits from it – Airmen, Guardians and retirees,” she said. “This is your friends, your co-workers – this could be you. This is all of us. You’re never going to know when you are going to need help. It truly is Airmen and Guardians taking care of Airmen and Guardians.”

Contributions to AFAF may be tax-deductible.

For more information, first contact a unit project officer. Additional details on AFAF are available at www.afassistancefund.org.

Contact Shephard at barbara.shephard@afit.edu and Randall at gordon.randall.1@us.af.mil.

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