Volunteers grow while serving military community with Navy Marine Corps Relief Society

1 May 2013 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

What began when Jessie McManus received a flier at a workshop led to her assisting more than 700 members of the military community and a scholarship to her dream career.

McManus was one of many volunteers with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, an organization that provides financial education and assistance to members of the Navy and the Marine Corps and their families.

McManus received the flier while at Budget for Baby, a Navy Marine Corps Relief Society workshop where members of the military community learn budgeting techniques and how to prepare for the financial impact of a child. McManus put the flier on her refrigerator and out of her mind, but months later when she wanted a break from being a stay-at-home mom she saw it and gave the society a call.
She wanted to serve the military community, said McManus. The work the society does provided that for her and led her directly into the career she wanted.

“What starts off as a break from the kids turns into personal growth and development,” said McManus.

Navy Marine Corps Relief Society provided more than $2 million to members of the Camp Lejeune community last year. It is run primarily by volunteers.

Volunteers of all skill levels, ages and backgrounds join the organization to help service members with financial education and assistance along with many other programs for the military community.

Putting in more than 26,000 hours last year, volunteers manage and operate programs and services held by the organization.

“When you walk, in you may not notice they are volunteers,” said Jennifer Roby, the chair of volunteers with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

The volunteers dress for the job, maintaining a professional standard, said Roby. Volunteers are viewed as staff at the society. They maintain the responsibilities and expectations associated with paid employees.

Some volunteers hold professional careers and some are just entering the workforce. The organization’s strength lies in its diversity, said Roby.

It’s a place where people learn skills or maintain the skills they’ve earned. Volunteers teach workshops, do clerical work, case work and public relations

It can be used as a stepping stone towards a future career, such as McManus or Susanna Epling, who is interested in social work and microloans, or it can be used as a way to keep a resume current.

Whatever strengths a volunteer has can be used with Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, said Christine Zimmerman, a volunteer at the organization.

It is a place to meet members of the military community and “forge your own family,” said McManus.

“You can build lifelong friendships,” said Roby.

Volunteers are not limited to work within the facility. Some volunteers work from home throughout the country, knitting and crocheting blankets for use in the Budget for Baby workshop’s free layettes.

McManus spent five years volunteering with the society and in that time worked her way up to a level four caseworker, the highest level and one previously unattained by a volunteer with the society. She served as the chair of volunteers and earned a scholarship to achieve her goals and she now works as a paid employee with the society.

In her years working there, what sticks out in McManus’ memory are the times when she met clients who were distraught, who walked in stressed and afraid with a slew of past due bills, she said. McManus helped many in similar predicaments prepare a monthly budget and apply for an interest-free loan with the society. She helped them get through the emergency with a plan for the future. McManus said she can see the burdens leave the client.

The volunteers’ efforts do not go unrecognized, throughout National Volunteer Week, the facility held a cookout and a relaxation event with yoga at Onslow Beach. An award and recognition ceremony is planned at the Paradise Point Officer’s Club on May 22.

The volunteers pay for nothing out of pocket for working with the society. The organization provides yarn to knitters and postage to send them to the society. They also provide child care and reimburse mileage to volunteers.

For more information about volunteering at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society call 451-5346.