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HANAU, Germany — A recent policy change by U.S. Army Europe will make it easier for Family Readiness Groups to raise funds for unit events.

While officials are still working out some details, Family Readiness Groups, or FRGs, will now have greater latitude to raise funds outside the confines of their immediate unit, Col. George A. Latham, the 104th Area Support Group commander, recently told Hanau community leaders.

In the past, groups often had to collaborate with a private organization, such as the Red Cross or a parent-teacher’s association, to stage a large fund-raising event. That’s because strict guidelines on FRGs greatly limited the scope of their fund-raising activities.

Leslie Smith, the FRG leader for the 127th Aviation Support Battalion in Hanau, applauded the change.

She said support groups such as hers had to ask a private organization to fill out paperwork on their behalf to give them so-called “umbrella” coverage. If a group didn’t go that route, they could raise funds only within the unit itself or at a few select events, such as an annual community day or bazaar.

“It’s a blessing to have it lifted,” Smith said.

Family Readiness Groups exist primarily to pass along clear and concise command information “up and down the chain of concern,” according to Ricky Gibbons, chief of the Army Community Service program in Europe.

In addition, FRGs offer moral support and assistance to spouses and family members left behind when soldiers deploy.

Gibbons estimates there are 100 or more such groups throughout U.S. Army Europe. Though USAREUR is the only Army command that mandates such organizations, Gibbons indicated the requirement might shortly become the norm throughout the Army.

The effort to relax the fund-raising constraints on FRGs has gained momentum since the war in Iraq. Thousands of soldiers who fall under the 104th ASG are in Southwest Asia in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their deployment has given renewed vigor and prominence to FRGs.

“We, as FRGs, are meeting much more often,” said Tammy Doerer, who heads the spouses’ group for the 1/501st Aviation Battalion.

Doerer said the policy change on fund raising would give FRG members the ability to directly approach a post exchange manager, for example, and request a day when it could conduct a fund-raiser outside its doors.

“We don’t need thousands and thousands of dollars,” Doerer said.

Some of the money her organization wants to raise would go toward the expense of staging a welcome home celebration for the unit when it redeploys.

Recently, Doerer said, her FRG threw a Halloween party for the children affiliated with her husband’s unit. About 70 people attended the event, which cost about $340.

The old fund-raising restrictions, Doerer said, “hurt our ability to do these kinds of events” because soldiers and their families “were, essentially, paying for their own party.”

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