NMCRS provides loans, nurses to needy

1 Feb 2012 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society's motto is "Make us your first resource, not your last resort." The private, non-profit military aid agency provides help to service members when they need it the most.

They do this by providing financial education, financial assistance and other aid in the form of programs for active-duty or retired service members, their families and their survivors, said Gini Schopfel, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and the director of the MCB Camp Lejeune NMCRS.

The organization was founded 108 years ago from the proceeds of the 1903 Army-Navy football game to assist indigent widows and mothers of deceased service members. It has been present in the area continuously for almost 70 years, added Schopfel.

Through grants and interest-free loans, the NMCRS can help pay for emergency transportation, food, rent, utilities, medical and dental bills, essential vehicle repairs, unforeseen family emergencies and funeral expenses, among other emergency needs. Some of the loans come in the form of interest-free Quick Assist Loans, which range up to $300 and take about 15 minutes to receive.

According to their website, the NMCRS understands that the best solution to financial problems is not always monetary assistance; they also help people develop a budget through a spending plan.

"We try to teach people to live within their means (and) be self sufficient," said Schopfel.

The money used is gained through donations and is meant to assist in a difficult situation, not to supplement income.

"We are operating under donated dollars, so we do have a set of guidelines as to what those dollars can be used for," said Schopfel.

However, every individual situation is taken into account. If a loan is denied for any reason, applicants can appeal the decision through a command appeal. Even if a situation is typically against policy, the applicant's circumstances can be taken into account and the NMCRS can attempt to get an exception from their headquarters.

The program offers more than loans and budgets; they also offer visiting nurses at no cost who provide health education and instruction. They can assist with education for newborn care, post-surgical follow-up care and help with ongoing medical conditions, according to a NMCRS publication. They also have combat casualty visiting nurses who provide long-term care to families and service members who were injured, ill or wounded in combat.

The program also offers Budget for Baby and Well Baby Clinics. In Well Baby Clinics, nurses visit housing areas twice per month, weigh and measure children and answer questions parents may have.

"It's a safe place to get information," said Schopfel. "It gives moms a chance to mingle and ask questions."

The NMCRS has helped one in five sailors and Marines with $48 million in 2011.

"Our 2010 fund drive raised $217,000 and we provided around $2.7 million in direct financial assistance," said Schopfel. "We can take a donated dollar and use it six times before it's used up."

Statistics, such as the number of service members, the number of programs offered and the amount of money loaned or donated to them, can only provide a partial idea of how the aid provided by NMCRS has impacted their lives and families. Untold in this story are the helpful lessons those service members and families learn and continue to use throughout their lives, which is an immeasurable statistic, valued more than any dollar can compare.

For more information, call 451-5346.