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.
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.
In 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