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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — With everyday financial problems compounded by 2005’s natural disasters in the United States, Army officials say they will actively encourage donations to the Army Emergency Relief fund.

The group kicked off this year’s fund-raising drive March 16 but expects to increase its tempo in South Korea on Monday, after a major training exercise.

“Our goal is to make 100 percent contact with soldiers,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Layne, AER Area I coordinator. “We’re not trying to force anybody into giving. We’re just putting it out there to see if they would like to donate.”

Anyone can donate, but only active-duty soldiers will be solicited, officials said. The relief fund provides money for a variety of emergencies, including funeral, medical and emergency transportation expenses. The money can be a grant, an interest-free loan or a combination of both.

AER also provides money for scholarships, to soldiers’ widows and in the aftermath of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina last year.

To donate or seek money, soldiers in South Korea can talk to their unit adviser or call the Yongsan Garrison AER office at 738-4655. A list of office contacts on other South Korean bases can be found at www.aerhq.org.

In Okinawa, anyone wishing to donate or seek assistance should contact their unit’s key person for the fund drive, officials said. If unsure, call Torii Station’s Army Community Services at 644-4378.

In mainland Japan, soldiers can talk to their unit adviser or call the Camp Zama AER office at 263-4357.

AER is a private nonprofit foundation created in 1942. It receives no government funding.

AER took in $22.5 million during fiscal 2004, according to independent analyst Charity Navigator. During that year, 86.4 percent of its funds went to soldiers, with the remainder going to administrative and fundraising expenses.

Juliana Gittler and Fred Zimmerman contributed to this report.

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