Category Archives: Volunteers

Finding Military Family Support Around the World!

baumholder-germanyI have an amazing job and I travel frequently. During my stateside travels, I get to see the incredible community support provided to military families and veterans. These communities fill gaps where others can’t and it makes me feel good to know my neighbors care. But when traveling overseas, what does ‘community support’ look like? Do other countries care about American military families?

I wasn’t sure that support for American military families living overseas would be as generous.

I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I traveled through Germany and Italy for two weeks while attending the annual Americans Working Around the Globe conference, and I hoped to get a chance to really see communities overseas embrace our nation’s military families. You see, community support and involvement overseas is scrutinized through the use of different policies on installation access, as well as Status of Forces Agreements. The threat protection level is higher and there is security awareness outside the gates. Host nations have their own policies, too. The take away? It’s not easy to be a business or host nation organization and support military families.

But they find a way.

The best community support I saw was in Baumholder, Germany. It’s a small installation compared to those around it, but that’s what makes it special. The community struggled for several years through a huge downsizing on the military base, and some businesses didn’t make it. But those business who made it through, care about our American military families.

And they show it.

Businesses still post support signs to show they care about American military families. The people of Baumholder truly care about military families and want to make them feel welcome. They may not walk in our shoes, but they understand. I saw a huge outreach to get American families involved in events and celebrations because they want to give us a ‘home away from home,’ and make sure we know we’re welcomed and respected.

Support from communities overseas might be harder to find, but it’s there.  And I think it makes a world of difference!

Are you a military family living overseas? Have you noticed how your community reaches out to support you? Tell us about your experiences!

christinaPosted by Christina L. Jumper, Volunteer Services Director

Volunteering is More Than Just Showing Up! #OurVolunteersRock

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At the National Military Family Association, we like to say #OurVolunteersRock and we really mean it!

Recently, I joined our Volunteer Services Director and West Region Coordinator for a volunteer training session – where we provided in-person training to volunteers in Tucson, Arizona.

I started with NMFA as a volunteer in 2005 shortly after my husband joined the Marine Corps. My first Association event was a volunteer training conference held in Denver, Colorado. I was hooked. I loved meeting volunteers from all seven Uniformed Services and proudly boasted that I had a new friend who was a Coast Guard spouse! Not only did I learn about the history of NMFA, I had a chance to meet with staff, Board Members, and other volunteers. I learned about the latest legislative action, how to network in my community, and how to share information with NMFA so they could advocate on behalf of military families across the globe.

The training in Arizona was no different; except this time I was the trainer. I shared information about sequestration, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommendations, the 2016 Defense Budget, and how these elements connect with our 2015 Legislative Priorities.

Do you know what I learned from this training session?

Our Volunteers want MORE!

Our Volunteers are engaged in their communities and want to be more involved.

Here are some quick tips that I shared to help our Volunteers be their own best advocate:

  • Read our publications. From our monthly, Military Family News, to our website, and blog – we have great information for #milfams.
  • Follow us on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram…let us know you read our blog!
  • Stay engaged in your local community. Attend community events and report back to us about what is or is NOT happening to support military families.
  • Be an active volunteer. We provide exclusive volunteer-only training with webinars, conference calls, and in-person training sessions.

During Volunteer Appreciation Week, I would like to personally thank our past, present and future, yes, future, volunteers for continuing to be the “eyes and ears” in your local community and helping us advocate for you and your military family.

Wanna join us? Check out our volunteer opportunities!

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

The Top 5 Reasons to Volunteer with Us! #OurVolunteersRock

Quantico-09.08April 12-18 celebrates Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we’ve got a lot to celebrate! For almost 46 years, our Association has built our legacy on the backs of our Volunteers, who have selflessly given their time, energy, and efforts to support military families.

No one knows military families better than military families. That’s why we need you! If you’ve considered applying to be part of our Volunteer Corps, but haven’t done it yet, here’s 5 reasons you should hit Send today!

Find lasting friendships.
Volunteering not only forms relationships with the community you’re working with, it also creates bonds with fellow military spouse Volunteers that last a lifetime.

Fabulous Training. Awesome Opportunities.
Volunteers receive ongoing mentoring from our Volunteer Services Department, instant access to training, and have access to our spouse scholarships, internships, even jobs within our Association!

Make a Difference. Change a Life.
Our Volunteers devote more than 14,000 hours each year educating, informing, and strengthening military families. We’re not just making a difference, we’re changing lives.

Amazing Programs for Amazing Families.
From Operation Purple® Camps to military spouse scholarships, our programs give military families the support and confidence they need. Together we’re stronger!

Military Families Rock!
“It’s rewarding to serve the communities we love. It’s an honor to be the voice for my military family community!” -NMFA Volunteer

Do you have a military connection and want to join our Volunteer Corps? Fill out your application today!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Not Sure Where to Volunteer Your Time? Consider This.

animal-rescue-volunteerFor over a year, I have been in search of a place to volunteer my time. You’d think it would be easy, right? I just need to figure out what I’m passionate about, apply, and spend time volunteering. Well, as a director of a national volunteer program, I can tell you: it doesn’t work that way.

So, what’s the problem?

All volunteer programs are not created the same. Some programs invest a lot of time for orientation and training. Others require a particular skill, age range, or community relationship. Some programs offer short and long term opportunities with growth and leadership potential. Others require a commitment on your time and specific days you can serve. Before you jump into filling out the volunteer application, I challenge to think about a few things:

How much time do you really have to offer?
And be honest with yourself. If you want to get involved and you don’t have a lot of time, look at being involved with Days of Service, or Make a Difference Day, events. These events give you the opportunity to volunteer for a day, without straining your schedule.

What are you really passionate about?
If you get involved with a cause or a project that is important to you, you’ll be more likely to volunteer longer, right? Because it won’t seem like something you have to put in your schedule. It will be something you want to do.

Where do you already spend your time?
If your calendar is filled with activities and events, why not consider volunteering with those activities? If you spend a lot of time at your child’s school, volunteer there. If you spend time in the community library, serve there. You’re there anyways, right? Might as well take it as a chance to give back.

What do you have to offer?
Before you fill out that application, think about what you bring to the organization. Besides your gift of time, do you have a skill or professional training that might be of use? Make sure you mention this on your application. Another tip: it’s okay to separate your volunteer work from your professional work! I love serving military families, but I also want to make a difference in the lives of those outside the military. So, I’d love to volunteer with a community organization supporting the needs of children with Down Syndrome.

Do you want to volunteer with an organization with a national mission, or do you want to directly serve your community?
Understand what the mission of the organization is and how volunteers contribute. You may have to do some poking around on their website to find this, but you’ll appreciate knowing how volunteers help the mission and where the most impact is made.

For local volunteer opportunities, check out the United Way, or even ask friends, neighbors, or coworkers where they give their time!

As for me, I think I’ll keep looking and wait for the right opportunity in my community. But I’m lucky. I get to work with passionate volunteers on a daily basis!

What suggestions do you have for finding the right volunteer opportunity? Share them with me in the comments!

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director

The Power of Volunteering Together: Two Heads Are Better Than One!

Catherine-and-MarlisOne of the privileges of representing the National Military Family Association is the unique opportunity to honor our heroes and military families, and to celebrate their sacrifice through volunteerism. There is no better way to achieve this goal than by attending events on behalf of the Association and working with Association Volunteers.

Events are also great ways to connect with other military spouses and leaders in your community. I have always loved working with Volunteers and traveling to various places to attend events. I have not only gained lifelong friends, but it made my own military spouse journey worthwhile. I am so grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve had the chance to work with!

If you love volunteering, serving those who stand behind the uniform, or you’re attending a national or regional event, maximize your experience and outreach by following these tips:

  1. Have a partner in crime, or in this case a partner in Volunteering. Working together makes the experience more fun and allows you to connect with more military families.
  2. Connect with everyone possible! Connect with the attendees and the different organizations exhibiting at the event.
  3. Rely on your partner. Maybe you know a lot about a specific topic and he or she knows a lot about something else. Together you might know everything!
  4. Are you shy? With another Volunteer by your side, you don’t have to worry about not knowing anyone.
  5. You can become a networking star! The more events you attend, the more people start recognizing you, and your network will continually grow.
  6. If you happen to walk into a room and don’t know anyone, take advantage of name tags. Name tags are great conversation starters!
  7. Recruit! Do you like Volunteering? (We hope so!) If you do, ask others to join you in your efforts.

If you enjoy Volunteering in support of military families, we want you to be a part of our Volunteer Corps!

Have you had an experience where it is better to work as a team instead of working alone? Tell us about it! And consider being a part of our Volunteer Team!

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Mobile Initiatives Content Specialist and Catherine Margetiak, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Tampa FL

From Growing Up a Military Kid to Helping Today’s Military Kids Grow

vets-day-parade-1It’s a story you may have heard—or even lived. A young girl watches her dad go in and out of the hospital due to injuries sustained at war. Yvonne Brunner’s father came back from the Korean War with physical injuries, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). All of those things placed a heavy weight on Yvonne’s family, who didn’t have a support system in place. She knew, even at a young age, that she wanted to help those kids who grow up each day facing the stresses and consequences of war—but how?

Yvonne grew up to become a Navy spouse. Her husband is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a paramedic with the Nassau County Police Department in New York. Meanwhile, Yvonne has served as Children & Youth County Chairman at the American Legion Auxiliary, a position that eventually led her to us. She became a volunteer with our Association in 2013 and has become a rising star to military kids.

Yvonne started going to elementary schools in her area, teaching kids about the American flag, hosting mini-parades, and holding a contest called ‘Red, White, and Blue: What the Flag Means to You.’ On Halloween, she handed out safety coloring books. During the winter holidays, she baked cookies and cupcakes and participated in toy distribution programs for military kids.

“It has been cathartic,” Yvonne said about her volunteer experience with our Association. “A journey of self-healing. “

Yvonne’s passion for military kids aligns perfectly with our Operation Purple® Program. When American Legion Auxiliary hosted a fundraising concert on Long Island, C.J. Ramone, who was performing, introduced her to comedian Dave Attell. She shared her experience and desire to help military kids, and they were moved to action. The three of them put together a concert benefitting the Operation Purple, and Yvonne acted as a one-woman dynamo—funding the event upfront and promoting it through radio interviews, town hall meetings, and hitting the pavement distributing flyers throughout Long Island.

The concert raised more than $6,000, and inspired Dave Attell to make two additional $25,000 donations and host a comedy show fundraiser on Veterans Day.

“Each and every one of us is an incredible person, capable of extraordinary things,” Yvonne said.  “It is my continued hope that we all join together to give back to our service members and their families.  Our children are our hope. They are our ‘littlest warriors’ who, by the simple act of saying good-bye, become the symbol of hope for peace.”

karen-cookPosted by Karen Cook, Volunteer Services Coordinator, North Region

#OurVolunteersRock: Spotlight on Amy Chaffin

What does it take to receive the prestigious Novella Gibson Whitehead award from our Association? A lot of talking to military families!

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We are proud to announce Amy Chaffin as our 2014 Novella Gibson Whitehead Award recipient. This award is given to a Volunteer who best defines the position’s roles and responsibilities: identifying, studying, researching, and evaluating issues relevant to the quality of life for military families. Amy is a direct link between Fort Carson military families and our Association staff, bringing shared local concerns and stories of positive community impacts. She is highly deserving of this award.

So what did Amy do? Amy was appointed as a Volunteer in 2011. She advocates for military families to become familiar with the Interstate Compact for the Educational Opportunity for Military Children so parents can ensure their children’s schools are following the intent of the agreement. During her three years she has raised important issues, such as the Army’s change in background checks, requiring those who volunteer with children to agree to have their medical and behavioral health records reviewed. Not only did Amy raise the issue, but she provided well-thought out reasons why this is problematic, and continued to follow the issue and provide subsequent information. Amy introduced our Association to numerous military communities, and helped us with mentoring and welcoming new volunteers into her area. She interviews potential volunteers as the first touch point with our Association.

Whether Amy is talking with the Superintendent at school board meetings about children’s education, or introducing her hairdresser to our app, MyMilitaryLife, Amy is an outstanding representative of our Association. Congratulations, Amy!

Think you have what it takes to volunteer with us? We think so!

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director