Civilians slow to rally to military relief fund

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Broadcasters have joined with four military relief groups to raise money for American troops and their families experiencing emotional, physical and financial stress. So far, the results have been disappointing.

Those close to the Armed Forces Relief Trust, a new nonprofit organization formed with assistance from the National Association of Broadcasters, said only a few thousand dollars at most have been donated.

“It hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know that we’ve received any donations” since announcing this new campaign on Nov. 6, said retired Lt. Gen. Nathaniel R. Thompson of Army Emergency Relief, one of the organizations involved.

Said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton: “The fact we’ve not received $10 million this early in the campaign is not a cause for alarm. We expect a terrific response from the general public.”

Last year, Army Emergency Relief and three other military relief groups — the Air Force Aid Society, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance — provided more than $108 million in grants and interest-free loans to 145,000 individuals and families.

Gen. Thompson blames the lackluster results on competition from other charities.

He said the new Armed Forces Relief Trust does not have a specific fund-raising goal and is not certain if the combined trust will collect as much as the four groups did on their own last year.

“The large deployment of reservists and the National Guard has greatly expanded the resources needed to take care of our troops and their families,” the general said.

But Mr. Wharton said there’s “no question” the contributions will go up as a result of the trust.

Retired Col. Greg Mason, also with Army Emergency Relief, said the individual military relief organizations raise funds privately for needy soldiers and their families in their respective branches of the armed forces. Contributions tend to come from retirees and those on active duty.

The Armed Forces Relief Trust, he said, is a single fund designed to better collect and disburse donations to military families in need.

Gen. Thompson said he’s confident the relief trust eventually “will help us mobilize more Americans to help military families” in that donors will not be limited to those with military connections.

The trust relies on public service announcements, which NAB helped create. They are being distributed to 1,600 television stations and 13,000 radio stations across the country.

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