MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- After decades of teaching, leading and supporting the military community, Gini Schopfel, the former director of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune retired, leaving behind a stronger NMCRS.
The retired lieutenant colonel directed the NMCRS aboard Camp Lejeune for the last 21 years. Schopfel stepped into place as the NMCRS leader the day after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps.
“I took the boots off and I came here,” said Schopfel.
It was a natural progression for the former personnel administration officer. Her work as a Marine led her to managing manpower, personnel, pay and allowances, as well as casualty assistance.
However, her early years at the NMCRS were still marked with transitions and challenges, for both Schopfel and the society itself.
“There was a lot of room for growth,” said Schopfel.
Schopfel said she approached the NMCRS the same way she looked at her Marine Corps career and decided to look for the opportunities to grow from the challenges the NMCRS faced.
While Schopfel adjusted to wearing shoes that were not boots and being called Mrs. Shopfel instead of her rank, she looked for ways to better focus on serving patrons, in many ways including limiting unnecessary bureaucracy.
“I deal with people better than I deal with paper,” said Schopfel. “The paper supports the people, but the people are more important.”
She chose to concentrate her efforts on creating a better experience for customers. She wanted the NMCRS to be a place service members would feel comfortable going to during a financial crisis. She strived to make the NMCRS the go-to source for Marines, sailors and their families.
“Money issues are very emotional; it’s very scary,” said Schopfel. “If your car is broken and you can’t make it to work and you’re worried with being (charged with an) unauthorized absence, it’s scary. It’s important to be able to come here and be greeted by a volunteer who is professional, friendly and well trained.”
Creating a place that could provide that was a challenge she was ready to meet. Schopfel was no stranger to breaking barriers; just before stepping into the NMCRS she was the first female commanding officer of the Personnel Administration School at Camp Johnson.
Schopfel began by studying the processes used at the NMCRS and improving them. Rather than having Marines wait in long lines, Marines could set appointments. Schopfel and her team implemented a thorough training program that emphasized skills and professionalism in volunteers.
“Working with Schopfel is empowering,” said Jesey McManus, a relief services assistant with the NMCRS. “She guides us to expand and grow into new roles to benefit the NMCRS.”
Schopfel encouraged her staff to lead, said Tina Williams, a relief services assistant with the NMCRS.
“One of the ways you respect a volunteer is by mentoring them,” said Schopfel.
She believes the way to have quality volunteers is through constant mentoring and providing effective feedback.
It took Schopfel far less than 20 years to meet her goals. Today Camp Lejeune’s Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provides a wide variety of assistance to the community.
After more than 40 years of service and two retirements, Schopfel plans to enjoy this phase in her life. She plans to spend time with family and explore her interests and hobbies. However, her legacy at the NMCRS will continue to provide comfort and assistance to anybody who steps through through its door for years to come.
For more information about the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, visit www.nmcrs.org/locations/entry/camp-lejeune or call 451-5584.
Find us on Google + (http://gplus.to/camp.lejeune)
Follow us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/camp_lejeune)
Like us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/camp.lejeune)