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

Lessons for the Unintentional Military Landlord

Lessons-for-the-Unintentional-Military-Landlord-NMFA-AHRNMy husband and I bought our first home in 2009, while the housing market was no longer at its peak, but hadn’t hit bottom, yet. Knowing we’d be at our duty station for more than four years, we confidently bought a home, assuming we could save money and sell when it was time to PCS three hours north.

We received orders in 2013, prepped our house, and listed it for sale. We had a month of great traffic, several prospective buyers, and our well-laid plans seemed to be right on track.

Then, the government shut down.

We held out hope for a few weeks, but quickly ran out of options. Just like that, we became self-managing landlords. We know many other military families can identify with our not-so-unique story. If you’re thinking about renting out your property, perhaps you can learn from our experiences. Here are five tips:

Not every house makes a good rental
We had many concerns about using our home as a rental. Certain qualities make a properties less complicated to manage, like easy-to-maintain grounds, newer construction, community amenities. Our house is uniquely charming, beautiful, and comfortable, but it is also older and tucked in the woods. Fortunately, its unique appeal makes up for its quirks. And it’s close to several bases, upgrades, and military-friendly neighborhoods. It’s important to highlight those types of qualities when you’re advertising your property to find the right tenants.

Think strategically about placing tenants
When I decided to self-manage the property, I also decided to find my own tenants. There were many things to consider, such as a pet policy and length of the lease, when choosing renters. I carefully followed the laws of the state and used AHRN.com to pick the people I thought would be the best match based on financial background, calls to former landlords, and their desired length of lease. At the end, I lowered the asking rent $50 to accommodate the family who is the best fit and poses the lowest-risk.

Document property conditions thoroughly and keep an excellent inventory
Thoroughly documenting and inventorying your property’s conditions before, and between, placing tenants is extremely important. We took photos and video throughout the home, and put everything in writing in the tenants’ condition form. I then encouraged them to be equally thorough, and welcomed their excessive notes about every little ding and scratch after the walk-through. This step allowed the tenants to take a great deal of personal responsibility for the condition of home before and after their stay, and gives me the paperwork I need to take care of the home from afar.

If you’re self-managing, put your emotion aside… most of the time
In most circumstances, especially as a self-managing landlord, you have to be prepared to make every decision in the name of finances and business. However, I quickly learned it’s not so cut-and-dry. Our first set of renters stayed in the property for only three months before an extremely emergent personal issue led them to request a release from the lease. Had this strictly been a business decision, I could have held them to the terms of the contract until the last possible moment. Or, I could try to find new tenants and quickly release the current tenants from the lease. We absorbed some moderate costs for quick turnover, but I can also sleep at night without feeling guilty.

It’s not the end of the world
It’s also not without risk, but for my family, being unintentional landlords has been going relatively well. Keeping my emotions in check, finances in order, backup plans ready, and support system in place, we’re hopeful we can either move back into the home in a few years, or sell it without losing too much money when the time is right.

Want five MORE tips to help you navigate your Landlord title? Head over to AHRN’s blog and take some notes!

Posted by Kristin Beauchamp, Military Spouse and Digital Marketing Manager, Red Door Group

Veterans Have Families, Too.

girl-holding-flagsRecently, I shared some of the awesome things NMFA does for the military community, and last week, we had a great opportunity to work with the military families, and other organizations who have a huge impact within their own towns all across the country.

NMFA hosted our second Military Transition Roundtable, where we dove into discussions about how we help communities around the country prepare, support, and welcome separating service members and their families.

Some of the questions tackled were:

  • How do we prepare our communities to handle the transitioning service members and their families?
  • Can military support organizations open the door to the civilian community more, if so, how?
  • How do we help these organizations move beyond offering only deployment support?

Being a civilian, this conversation really spoke to me, and the work I do with military families. Before I became involved with NMFA, I would always say I was a supporter of the military, but I’m not sure I really knew what that meant. I wasn’t sure how to go beyond the word support…especially when it meant helping families transitioning out of military service. Did they still need our help?

The answer is yes. Transitioning families do still need support, and here are a few ideas the experts around the table shared to do just that:

  • Let’s get our communities to adopt a mindset which supports hiring veterans and their spouses. It needs to be cultural within community businesses and organizations.
  • If community organizations should make a habit of asking newcomers if they’re members of the military.
  • There are significantly more information gaps and confusion when it comes to transitioning out of the military, and families in the throes of it are navigating as best they can. Just because families are finding their new normal outside of the military, doesn’t mean we need to stop supporting–we just need to change how we’re doing it.
  • Let’s encourage civilians to be the connecter in their communities.
  • Community organizations can make relationships with transitioning families happen by reaching out and talking to military family readiness leaders to find out how to help.
  • We must continue to make it known that veterans have families, too. In some instances, we are dealing with communities who aren’t thinking about the families behind the veteran, so, how do we shift the conversation?

If you are interested in seeing more, check out a full recap of our tweets from our Roundtable discussion.

What are some ways communities, and civilians, can help make transitioning military families feel more at home? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

 

Jump for Joy! It’s the Month of the Military Child!

month-of-the-military-child

April is here and it’s one of our favorite months! That’s because we get to celebrate and recognize some of the military community’s smallest heroes: military kids!

Though they’re some of the tiniest humans (both in size and age!), they play a huge part in their military family. They’re courageous, resilient, well-rounded, and strong! We think MilKids are SO awesome, we’ve got a summer camp just for them!

Now, we’re inviting you to tell us about an awesome military child in your life! Leave us a comment and share why they rock!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Juvenile and Family Courts: How to Best Serve Military-Connected Families?

lady-justice-military-familyOn March 5, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) hosted nearly 100 judicial officers and military personnel, including NMFA’s Executive Director, Joyce Wessel-Raezer, at the National Infantry Museum and Solider Center in Columbus, Ga.

The goal of the National Summit on Courts and the Military was to bring officials together to discuss how to better serve military-connected families around the country, who find themselves involved in civilian court proceedings.

Topics discussed included mental health and substance abuse issues, specialty courts (like Veteran Treatment Courts), the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and the disconnection between courts and the military.

Here’s what we know:

  • In 2013, over 40% of the total force was made up of families with minor children.
  • Many military families face long separations from one another as a result of deployments or training, while others experience multiple relocations.
  • Chronic pain, traumatic brain injury and mental health problems, like depression, anxiety and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are common among military members who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • Many military members often cope with the challenges of combat and returning to civilian life by using drugs and alcohol.
  • The impact of war can also affect family violence. In 2013, 6,989 incidents met the criteria for child abuse and neglect and 7,935 incidents met the criteria for spousal abuse.

These factors, together or separately, disrupt family life and can result in families entering the court system. The NCJFCJ helps by training and educating judges on the unique challenges faced by military-connected families, as well as how to be sensitive to the traumas they may have experienced. Much of the conversation revolved around how the courts can help military families access resources available to them, like medical and non-medical counseling, child care services and child/youth programs, parenting classes, financial counseling, and protections from financial and legal distress.

Judges and military personnel were empowered by the information presented at the Summit, and our hope is that the people who read this blog will be too. Ideally, these conversations will lead to improving outcomes for military-connected families by changing practices at the local, statewide and national level.

Carlene-GonzalesPosted by Carlene Gonzalez, Ph.D., Site Manager for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

1997 to 2015: Proudly Announcing Our New Look!

We’re in our 46th year supporting military families and making a difference in their lives, and times have changed since 1969–especially on the World Wide Web. From our first website in 1997 where everything was housed on one page, we’ve come a long way, and guess what?! Our website just got even better!

NMFA is excited to announce the launch of our new, and totally awesome website! It’s got a fresh look, improved ways to navigate our resources, and a responsive design to make your pointing and clicking fast and to-the-point.

Website-Comparison-1997-to-2015-PiP

Here are 10 things you’ll love about our new website:

  • A clean, uncluttered design to find exactly what you need
  • A responsive design for computers, tablets, and smart phones
  • Five simplified tabs to quickly direct you where you want to go
  • A new and improved donation page allowing for quick giving, even from a tablet or smartphone
  • A fun Volunteer section with a quick application process
  • Easy access to all of our military spouse scholarship and professional development opportunities
  • A beautiful, vivid slideshow and homepage to showcase NMFA’s advocacy and feature articles
  • Compact, but detailed Kids + Operation Purple section, housing all the important things for raising military kids
  • A simple, point-and-click Connect With Us area so you can find us on social media, eNewsletters, and even an easy way to download and learn more about our app, MyMilitaryLife
  • Quick access to Branching Out, our blog featuring real life stories from military families’ front lines

After many hours of planning, researching, consolidating information, designing, implementing, and working out the kinks, our new website is live and ready to help you and your family navigate your military journey.

We’ve come a long way since our first website in 1997, but what’s even more amazing is how far we’ve come since 1969, when NMFA’s founders sat around a kitchen table and formed the humble beginnings of our Association. Even through the years, and multiple website designs, our focus hasn’t wavered; we’re here for you, because together we’re stronger.

Start exploring our new website and let us know what you think! Can’t find something? Let us know in the comments, or email Info@MilitaryFamily.org.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

We’re Listening! What’s Happening in Your Military Community?

navy-family-says-goodbyeWorking directly with military spouses is one of the awesome things we get to do at the National Military Family Association; we get to listen to their concerns and bring their voices to the forefront of the minds of our nation’s leaders to help make change happen.

Last week, we had two opportunities to bring groups together and talk about what our military families need.

On Tuesday, we hosted a group of senior spouses where our Government Relations team provided an overview of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission report and the 2016 Defense Budget. This was the perfect opportunity for these senior spouses to discuss what they’re seeing in their own military communities. Families’ access to health care–especially for those families who have special needs–and child care are concerns in many of the senior spouses’ communities. Hearing these struggles from a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective is extremely important in continuing NMFA’s mission of advocating for, supporting, and strengthening military families.

On Thursday, we were lucky enough to host a magnificent group of students from the University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work in our Alexandria, Virginia headquarters. These social work students are pursuing the ‘military track,’ and intend to use their education to assist and work with military families and communities. Our Government Relations and Youth Initiatives teams joined other staff to share some of the struggles that military families face when dealing with mental and behavioral health needs. The USC students shed light on where they see the social work field headed, and how they hope to impact military communities in the future.

We are always grateful that we’re able to engage with military families, and those who support them, at a grassroots level. Getting direct feedback from spouses and experts in the community is what allows NMFA to continue being a voice and resource for military families.

What are you seeing in your community? How can we help to make the lives of military families better? Posts your suggestions in the comments below.

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager