Photo Information

Gini Schopfel (right), director of the Navy – Marine Corps Relief Services branch aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and Kelly Shortt, a support relief services assistant with the NMCRS, cut the birthday cake of the society’s 107th birthday celebration Jan. 20. In addition to commemorating history and traditions of the program, employees and volunteers alike celebrated reaching a milestone of providing more than $3 million in financial assistance in 2010.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society recognizes roots, celebrates milestone

20 Jan 2011 | Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman

Employees and volunteers with the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, celebrated the society’s 107th birthday at the NMCRS office, Jan. 20. The society’s actual birth date is Jan. 23, but due to complications in schedules and the convenience of having it during the work week, it was held last Thursday instead.

They were joined by base officials and clients to help celebrate the society’s history and traditions as well as reaching a milestone last year after providing more than $3.14 million in financial assistance aboard the base alone.

Out of the many components that allow the NMCRS to be such a success, that 80 percent of its efficiency is due to volunteer work.

Sharla Desy, the chairman of the client services assistants, said that the NMCRS here at Camp Lejeune, and all over the world, does a lot of what they do with the help of the volunteers.

“They value their employees and their volunteers on an equal fitting so when you come here and you say ‘I want to help,’ they will give you as much responsibility as you want to take on,” said Desy. “And it’s very satisfying to be here. Marines and sailors come in here and sometimes we can’t assist them financially, but we give them advice and resources. Whether we give them money or not, we know that we’re helping people.”

Desy added that every volunteer and employee is one gear in the big, well-oiled machine that is the NMCRS.

“I’m a receptionist,” said Desy. “I answer the phones and I schedule appointments – I direct the flow of traffic. If I slow down, then the people coming in don’t get to the case workers in a timely manner. Not only do I feel like I’m important, it’s a wonderful place to be. You feed on the energy of the other people that are here.”

Andrea Rupp, a client services assistant with the base NMCRS, said it has given her something to wake up and do every day, especially since her husband will be deploying for more than a year, as well as a sense of pride in helping people that are ‘helping her.’

“I love it,” said Rupp. “I’m just so happy to come in here and help wherever I can. It’s such a great organization. I know that the Marine Corps has been around much longer but it’s unbelievable to be a part of something that has been around for so long. To be a part of something that hasn’t changed in 107 years and has stayed true to what it was formed for… it’s just a sense of pride that builds in you.”

Jessica McManus, who once knew nothing of the NMCRS before she participated in a Budget for Baby class several years ago, is now the chair of volunteers for the Camp Lejeune NMCRS.

“I got a flyer from a pamphlet in the class saying who to contact and what do if I wanted to volunteer (with the NMCRS),” said McManus. “I kept that flyer on my fridge for about a year. I knew I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t ready to go back to work full time because I had the baby. I didn’t want to sit at home and not do anything so I contacted them when my son was about one-year-old and I was ready. I started volunteering and that was about four years ago.”

McManus began as a case worker, but focused on managing other volunteers after experiencing what she described as ‘compassion fatigue’ after helping countless service members through crises throughout the year.

“I always think back to where it was founded more than a hundred years ago with a couple of ladies who wanted to raise as much money as they could to help out the widows and orphans in that era of the military,” said McManus. “Looking at what it’s grown into now, where we’ve provided more than $3 million in financial assistance here at Camp Lejeune; it’s just blossomed into something completely different.”

McManus said that she doesn’t get surprised that the NMCRS is still around, but she is just in awe what it has grown into over the last century.