America Supports You: Foundation Ready to Lend Troops a Hand
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 9, 2007 The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation is lending a helping hand to those serving in the global war on terrorism, a foundation official said
The group was founded in December 2001 to assist servicemembers and military families who face financial issues due to predatory lending.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation is a member of America Supports You, the Defense Department program established in November 2004 to directly connect military members to the support of the America people and to offer a tool to the general public in their quest to find meaningful ways to support the military community.
“(Our) programs fall under two major headings,” Mary Lynn Stevens, the foundation’s vice president of external relations, said. “One major heading is financial issues. The other is our Military Heroes program.”
Under the financial heading falls the “Asset Recovery Kit,” which helps military families who’ve gotten involved in predatory lending, Stevens said. The kit provides loans of up to $500 for a $6 fee until the next pay day, she said. No credit check is required; however there are stricter rules for a second loan.
The kit is available through all Pentagon Federal Credit Union branches. Credit unions at Fort Gordon and Fort Stewart, in Georgia, as well as Fort Bragg Credit Union, in North Carolina, also offer the kit. Close to $450,000 in emergency cash has been loaned since the program began in December 2004, Stevens said.
Another financial program, “Dream Makers” provides $5,000 grants to first-time home buyers of modest means for down payments and settlement costs, Stevens said. The program is available to all servicemembers and national security employees, to include Homeland Security and DoD civilians, she said.
“The woman who got our first Dream Makers grant is a corporal at Fort Hood with a child, and she’s going to be deployed to Iraq in October,” she said of the soldier. “I have six applications pending, several at Fort Hood, two in Georgia and one in Hawaii.”
Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation also reaches out to wounded servicemembers by providing programs through its Military Heroes program.
Through this program, the group provides a hospice room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here so family members can stay with servicemembers who are terminally ill. It remodeled a patient and family lounge at the facility, as well.
“We’ve also put in over 80 laptops and wireless networks for Fisher Houses at military hospitals that are treating the wounded back from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Stevens said. She also recently placed an order for 42 laptops for the new Fisher House at Brooke Army Medical Center, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The group also works to connect servicemembers’ needs with the proper resources. Stevens said the foundation frequently looks to the America Supports You Web site to help find a resource, as was the case when a Marine stuck at Fort Bragg with no access to cash called her.
“His pay had run out and he had no more funds, but he didn’t fall under our umbrella,” she said. “I was able to go under America Supports You and find a smaller group who reached out to the Marines and connect the two. They took care of him.”