NAVAL AIR FACILITY MISAWA, Japan — Annual fund-raisers for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society are under way at Pacific installations, with organizers hoping to eclipse last year’s mark of $500,000.

The society gives out loans and grants to active-duty and retired servicemembers and their families in need, officials said.

Local commands select representatives to contact sailors and Marines about the donation drive and often hold special events such as raffles and car washes.

In mainland Japan, the fund drive began Monday and is to run to April 1.

On Okinawa, the campaign is to swing into gear Wednesday and end May 13.

About 45 percent of sailors on mainland Japan contributed during last year’s campaign, said Chief Petty Officer Ed Angeles, fund-drive coordinator at NAF Misawa.

Donations are accepted in the form of payroll deductions, checks or cash.

Last year’s regional fund-raiser in South Korea, Singapore, Diego Garcia and mainland Japan brought in $477,000, according to Kelley Finch, NMCRS Yokosuka office director.

The society gave out more than $660,000.

“It’s a worldwide pot,” she said. “Some regions bring in way more than they give out.”

Finch said donations are funneled directly back into relief.

The only salary paid through contributions is for nurses who provide assistance and home visitation to families in need, she said.

Last year for the region, $549,000 was paid in direct assistance, Finch said, for things such as emergency leave, car repairs, stolen funds and verified pay problems.

The society would, for example, help a servicemember who re-enlists but a problem with paperwork holds up a paycheck and the member “has a family of three and rent and utilities to pay,” she said.

The remaining $110,000 last year was distributed to spouses for tuition assistance.

Those scholarships are paid by the interest on the society’s reserve fund, Finch noted.

“Emergency leave is about 60 percent of our business because it’s so expensive to fly home,” she said.

If an immediate family member dies or is seriously ill, the society will provide an interest-free loan to help the servicemember and his or her family fly home.

In the case of a grandparent or grandchild, the society typically will help either the servicemember or spouse — whoever is the most closely related — get home, Finch said.

Last year, the society also gave out 240 layettes to servicemembers and their families in the region, with $100 of infant items including coordinated baby sheets, a hooded towel and other infant items.

On Okinawa last year, more than $567,000 was given out: 454 loans and grants totaling $502,744 and $64,506 in tuition assistance to spouses.

A majority of the loans and grants provided financial relief for servicemembers and their families during emergencies.

Fred Zimmerman contributed to this report.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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