CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn wants Illinoisans to remember the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by giving a helping hand to military families.

Quinn appeared at the Illinois National Guard Armory, at 1910 S. Calumet Av., to make his plea Saturday, with the commander of the Illinois National Guard and the state’s Veterans Affairs director at his side.

The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund is financed mostly by private donations. Quinn said that it has distributed $11,982,000 in grants and assistance to 24,320 military families since it was created in 2003.

Quinn said he began work to set up the fund in the weeks immediately following the 9/11 attacks. At the time, it was the first fund of its kind in the nation. He said 35 states now have similar funds.

The fund offers a $500 grant to the families of military personnel from Illinois deployed overseas. Additional assistance is available to those who are wounded or injured in action or whose families face other unexpected problems.

Illinoisans already have the ability to make donations to the fund by checking off a box on their state income tax returns.

One National Guard officer who has benefited from the program praised it.

“We all sacrifice a little when we go overseas, some of us sacrifice financially with help of the extra $500 going to our families really helps out, goes a long way especially with young couples, (especially) the junior enlisted officers that just signed up just starting up their brand new families,” said National Guard Capt. Hueng Chong, who returned recently from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Quinn made a point of noting that the fund and its programs are administered by one man — not a bloated bureaucracy — and called it “a model of government efficiency.”

Donations to the fund are tax-deductible.

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