Tag Archives: volunteers

Change the Lives of Military Families by Volunteering with NMFA

When I moved to the Washington, DC area, I met up with an old friend of mine from Guam, whose husband was also stationed at the Pentagon. It had been years since I had seen her, but we re-connected quickly as she shared tips, tricks and advice on living in Alexandria.

After I had settled in, she suggested I join her in volunteering with an organization nearby that helped military families. She was a regular volunteer who worked in the office when her kids were in school. So I applied to volunteer at NMFA, went in for an interview, and was taken on as a volunteer.

Facebook Volunteer Banner 2015

While I waited for the school year to start (I don’t have kids, but was about to start grad school), I came in and answered the front desk phone at the Association when some employees were out on vacation. I scanned archived copies of the Association’s newsletters so they would be digitized. I packed boxes of supplies being sent out to Operation Purple Camp. I stuffed envelopes. I organized digital photos taken at the camps. I wrote for the newsletter. I staffed the information table at various events around town. I did whatever I could to help out.

But there is one task I volunteered for that stands out as having a really profound effect on me. Last year, I helped read, sort and rate entries for a spouse scholarship. It was the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship, which provides recipients with the education and training needed to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor designation. There was a large applicant field, and I was one of several judges who read a total of nearly 7,000 entries. For my part, I read maybe 200 – 300 applications, which included long and short essay questions.

volunteer-with-nmfaIn reading those essays, I learned so much about a wide range of spouses in the military community — their struggles and triumphs, as well as the hardships and benefits of being part of this nation’s military. Those personal essays gave me a glimpse of what is going on in the hearts and minds of our military spouses.

I learned that no matter how diverse the military spouse population is, there are some threads that bind. Everyone was proud to be doing his or her part in service to our country; patriotism ran high! Also, every one of those applicants was looking to better themselves to help their families, and saw education as the key.

I was grateful for the opportunity to tap the pulse of our nation’s military spouses. It has strengthened my resolve to work with military families in whatever capacity I can. I encourage you to think about volunteering with NMFA, or volunteering within your military community. Whether you’re answering phones, stuffing envelopes, or advocating for other military families, your time makes a difference!

Do you have questions about volunteering with NMFA? Leave us a comment, or email VSRAdmin@MilitaryFamily.org!

Posted by Lalaine Estella, National Military Family Association Volunteer

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

Do White Coats Make You Nervous?

doctors_black and white photo-550Do white coats make you nervous?! Because they sure make me anxious! I’ll be honest with you: just the prospect of going to the doctor’s office makes me sweat. And don’t even get me started on the dentist. No, I am not scared of shots. But I am scared that whatever help I need, I won’t get. And that is a very real fear!

As military dependents, we don’t have the luxury of picking medical providers. Under the best conditions, we can ask other military dependents who they recommend, and under the worst, we are flying blind. So, the question becomes: How do you get the care you deserve and need with a practitioner you don’t know? The answer is: advocate for yourself and partner with your healthcare provider!

Here are some things you can do to help get your medical needs met!

  • List your concerns and the needs you want met. Make sure they are prioritized. This sets the stage for your exam, for both you and the provider. Don’t make them hunt down the reason for your visit; if you are there for a run of the mill check-up mention it, if you are there for specific reasons tell them.
  • Negotiate with the provider what issues can be addressed today, and if you will need another visit to address the rest. This way the two of you will have realistic expectations about what can be completed today. You don’t want to leave your appointment and feel like nothing was accomplished. Nor do you want to rush through! Be aware that different appointments are allocated different amounts of time. A first time visit to a new primary care provider may be a 45 min slot at one practice. While an appointment for a specific problem may be a 15 min slot.
  • Prompt your healthcare provider! Ask them what they think about your symptoms, what else it could be, and what tests they will run. This will pull your healthcare provider out of his or her tunnel vision. You want to inspire them to think outside the box. Just in case!
  • If they prescribe medication: What is the medicine for? What are the side effects? When should you take it? Will it interact with any of the medications you are presently on? And will it interfere with your daily life at all? The last thing you want is to go home with a medication that you don’t fully understand!
    If you aren’t happy, say so. Fill out a patient satisfaction survey. Let someone know. Nothing is going to change unless you say something!

Now, if you are reading this and you are saying to yourself, “I can’t be that assertive with my provider,” then bring a friend. Bring someone, anyone, who will advocate for you or just be there for you emotionally so that you can feel supported.

Recently, I heard a talk by August Fortin, an MD who specializes in patient centered care, and he acknowledged that “being a patient is amazingly disempowering.” We all know that feeling, especially when seeing a healthcare provider you don’t know about an issue you might be really nervous or uncomfortable about. But you can take that power back. You should get the care you deserve!

What experiences have you had with a new provider? What tips and tricks do you have to make it an easy transition?

katie-mccuskerPosted by Katie McCusker, NMFA Volunteer, US Coast Guard spouse, and ACNP student

Volunteering is More Than Just Showing Up! #OurVolunteersRock


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