Category Archives: Volunteers

No Time to Volunteer with a Full-Time Career? Consider This

Working full time or managing a career as a military spouse is hard. It’s a constant balancing act, full of compromises. If you’re a spouse who works in the civilian world, it can feel extremely isolating. While most military installations and units put forth a lot of effort to ensure families feel a strong sense of community, the events or program hours are often less than ideal for working military spouses.

As a military spouse and a full time headhunter (executive search consultant) for high growth technology companies, I understand the difficulties that come with that balancing act. I often feel as though I’m being pulled in two opposite directions. As the wife of an Army Combat Engineer, I know I have to work harder than everyone else at my firm, as I’ve been awarded the opportunity to continue a career that allows for remote positions. Easier said than done, of course, but the thought of losing that opportunity is enough to push me to prove my value day in and day out. Trying to find time to attend family and spouse events is a challenge in and of itself, so it was tough for me to imagine finding time to volunteer.

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At our last duty station, I was traveling every other week, missing out on community events, and felt completely disconnected from my husband’s work. Volunteering did cross my mind as a way to meet people and build relationships, but I thought, “Why volunteer when I’m not looking to fill gaps on a resume? I have a full time job that permits little time for myself.”

It wasn’t until my husband’s second deployment during our time at Fort Drum that I truly felt the need to become more connected to him and his work. While my work is important as well, I believe that his service is a higher calling. I wanted to help in any way that I could, especially while he was serving overseas. To put it into perspective, I decided this while moving away from “home” to be closer to my company’s office in Washington, DC–something I’ve done 8 times in the last 5 years when my husband was away or overseas (I move back each time he comes home).

Now, I won’t lie to you and say no one is ever too busy for another commitment. I feel your pain and sometimes, you are just TOO PLAIN BUSY. In my case, despite how strapped for time I felt, the feeling that I had something to offer prevailed. Onto the next step; where do I start?

I started my research as most things begin these day, with a Google search. I quickly found the National Military Family Association. I should add, I was excited to find NMFA but I still felt a sense of extreme hesitancy. I was concerned that even if I found a volunteer opportunity that resonated, it would be too much of a time commitment and I would be too busy to be a helpful Volunteer…I was wrong.

After scheduling a conversation with someone who could tell me more about the organization, I was still doubtful. Doubtful that I would meet the “requirements” needed for a volunteer. Doubtful that I would have something–anything–to offer that would be useful. I was wrong again. I was pleased to speak with another Volunteer who immediately understood my struggle, and was willing to work with me to find volunteer opportunities that would fit my lifestyle. This article is one of them! Important lesson learned: there is never a “right time.” If you wait around for the right time to do something important, you’ll never do it.

Is now the right time for you to Volunteer? Join us today!

Posted by Paige Kuderka, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Pay With Your Phone: Trade in Your Leather Wallet for a Virtual One

Mobile pay is the new “it” thing. But if you’re skeptical, you’re not alone. Research shows 46% of consumers have concerns about the security of paying with their mobile device. So what are the facts, and is it safe?

Apple was one of the first to develop the mobile pay system technology and now Android, Samsung, retailers, credit cards, and your bank are even getting in on the action. Check out these frequently asked questions and see if it’s time for you to trade in your leather wallet for a virtual one!

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How do I use mobile pay?
To use, you simply hover your phone over the payment terminal where you’re purchasing goods or services, and verify the transaction on your phone. And unfortunately that means, for now, paying at the pump with your phone is out. To use mobile pay, your phone must be associated with an account at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless. In addition, Android Pay will only work on devices that run the KitKat version of the operating system. Apple Pay is available on iPhone 6 and newer, or the Apple Watch.

Who’s doing what?
Retailers are also getting in on the action. The Starbucks app allows customers to load money onto a digital gift card and to pre-order so your coffee is ready when you arrive at your local Starbucks (how awesome!). The Paypal app allows you to also pre-order and pay for food at participating restaurants.

Banks, credit unions, and credit cards are beginning to utilize the QR code as means to pay. Chase Pay is working on technology that will allow you take a picture of your receipt to pay the bill.

Another program incorporating mobile pay is CurrentC.  Many large retailers are collaborating on this project, like BestBuy, Target, WalMart, Kohl’s, Shell, and Wendy’s, just to name a few. This program allows you to save all your store loyalty cards and coupons electronically in one place.

Is all this mobile pay safe to use?
Risk and security experts suggest protecting your device by locking it when not in use, using a password or fingerprint access point, and only utilizing secure Wi-Fi connections that require a password. The Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay systems all use a Tokenization system to protect you and the transaction. This means your real credit card numbers are never associated with the sale, thus making the transaction more secure. Many in the industry feel mobile pay is safer than using the microchip credit cards, because those cards still contain your credit card number on the front.

Faster than we know it, we’ll all be using virtual wallets, but that doesn’t mean you have to be in the dark about whether your personally identifiable information is secure. Try it out for yourself and let us know what you think!

Do you use any of these mobile pay options? Are they more convenient? Share your experience in the comments! 

Posted by Carla MacDonald, NMFA Volunteer

Connect With Your New Military Installation Fast! Here’s How…

The gym had been transformed; it was filled with tables decorated in beautiful autumn colors. A large screen dominated one corner, already broadcasting Armed Forces Network’s Monday Night Football game. The buffet table gleamed with silver chafing dishes, piled high with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Leaders dressed in their finest stood at the ready, serving utensils in hand. The band swung into “City of New Orleans” and the room began to fill with single service members and newly arrived families for our “Taste of Home” Thanksgiving dinner. The evening was a resounding success thanks to our volunteer team.

Volunteering is how I connect with a new community. Once the boxes are unpacked at a new duty station it can be challenging to know what to do next. Volunteering has always been my next step; it not only helps me connect with issues I care about in a new community, but it introduces me to others who care about them, too. It has given me the flexibility to put my family first in this often tumultuous lifestyle, while still finding a way to contribute to my community.

After arriving in Belgium in July 2014, I reached out to the National Military Family Association (NMFA) to see if there was a way I could volunteer while overseas at a NATO base. The answer was yes (yay!), giving me license to get involved in my new community. I spent time talking to organizations across the installation, meeting lots of new people and gaining insight to the challenges of this new duty station. I was able to share resources and programs with families who might not otherwise be aware of them. And I was able to connect with others who were committed to supporting military families.

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Over the course of this assignment, I saw that while Europe has much to offer, families especially missed home around the holidays. Those times of year were challenging for our young single service members, many of whom lived in barracks. Newly arriving families, living in temporary lodging, were also faced with trying to create a holiday environment at a brand new duty station, often while living out of a suitcase.

Last fall, we pulled a team together, sponsored by the senior chaplain, and began reaching out to every organization we could think of – BOSS, JROTC, MWR, AFN, Boy Scouts, and even our local thrift shop. Every single organization we invited eagerly joined in to make this event happen. These volunteers brought their talents to the task at hand and made that Thanksgiving one to remember.

Volunteering is the single best way I have found to connect with my community and make a difference. And the volunteer support I have received from NMFA has been key to my success. The Volunteer and Community Outreach Managers are encouraging. They empower their Volunteers and ensure that we understand NMFA’s mission and focus. NMFA actively seeks our Volunteer input from the field and uses it to better advocate for military families. If you’re looking for a way to connect with your community and support your peers, volunteering with NMFA is one of the best ways I know to do both. Come join us!

Interested in finding out more about how you can serve military families from ANYWHERE around the world, check out our Volunteer section and apply now! (It’s free!)

kelly-hPosted by Kelly Henry, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

“Go To Your Happy Place,” and Other PCS Lessons Learned Towing a Trailer

PCS season may be winding down for the majority of military families, with schools starting back, and pools getting their last straggling visitors. But for other military families, they’re still on the move! This summer, my family was one of the many leaving one community and arriving in another. We have moved a number of times, but I always learn something when we move.

This time, I learned about driving a vehicle with an attached trailer. My husband handles a majority of the move’s logistics, and this meant he was organizing our partially procured move. One day while I was really busy with a work deadline, a new recipe and maybe giving the dog a bath (not exactly all at the same time…but almost) he asked if I could drive our SUV and pull a trailer behind it during our move.

“Sure!” I said. I was obviously focused on something else. No problem! I didn’t give this another thought until my husband returned from the UHaul place with the trailer. The trailer was larger than I thought it would be. A lot larger. Uh oh!

Image: MovingInsider.com

What do you do when faced with situations like this? You ask another military spouse who has trailer-pulling experience! My good friend told me she towed a sail boat up the East Coast during one of their moves…in the middle of a hurricane! I thought she would certainly have some words of wisdom and comfort that would apply to my current situation.

“If something goes wrong on the road, just go to a happy place and don’t hit the brakes!” she shared.

I was really hoping for more substantial advice, but I honestly needed the laugh more than the actual advice. Thank goodness for good friends. She also told me I could absolutely do this.

The next morning, the trailer was attached to my vehicle and off we went. We were a two vehicle, two trailer caravan of two people and one slightly worried puppy. The dog was with me and may have sensed my “go to a happy place plan.” He is pretty smart.

Along the way I noticed something: I was not alone.

We stopped at several hotels and there were other military families all along our route. There were other military spouses with vehicles packed with children and suitcases and several of them were also driving a vehicle with a trailer. I wasn’t alone! This made me laugh. I looked around and thought, “If they can do this, I can too!

I may have been extremely careful, not ever putting myself in a position to need to go in reverse, but overall, we had a great trip. I was driving fairly intensely with no music in the vehicle, no driving too fast and I had a death grip on the steering wheel…but we arrived safely!

During our move I learned I can drive a vehicle and tow a trailer, if I need to. I absolutely learned I need to listen a bit more intently when we are dividing our move related tasks! I also learned to have a lot more respect for anyone who drives a really large vehicle for a living!

What have you learned during your recent PCS?

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager

Join the NMFA Volunteer Corps and Volunteer Virtually!

The National Military Family Association is fortunate to have Volunteers in communities worldwide. NMFA Volunteers participate in a variety of projects locally, and virtually, and their work has a lasting impact. And not all volunteering has to be in-person. Here are some of the ways our Volunteers are working to improve the lives of military families around the globe, in person and virtually:

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  • Conference Calls. NMFA Volunteers participate in all kinds of conference calls; from new Volunteer conference calls, to team conference calls, and even calls with our Government Relations department. Our conference calls help educate, connect, and further our advocacy efforts on behalf of military families.
  • Branching Out. Our Volunteers have added their voice and writing talents to this blog! They share stories about moving, saving money, PCSing with pets, and inspire other military families to share their stories and be informed.
  • Operation Purple® Camps. This year, nine Volunteers wrote letters to Senators and members of Congress inviting them to visit one of our Operation Purple Camps, and meet some of our youngest heroes! We also have Volunteers packing their backpacks and lacing up their hiking boots to visit an Operation Purple Camp for the day. Each of our Operation Purple Camp visitors visit a camp to observe our curriculum, meet with the camp staff, interact with the campers, and make sure campers are having a true Operation Purple Camp experience. They will probably taste s’mores, too!
  • Local Events. NMFA Volunteers are the face, voice, eyes, and ears of NMFA in their local communities! They are busy hosting information tables all over the globe, attending town hall meetings, Yellow Ribbon Events, and participating in patient advisory councils at local Military Treatment Facilities and clinics. Why is this local outreach so important? Because it helps military families better understand who NMFA is, and it helps us understand what military families are experiencing on a real-life, day-to-day level.
  • Advocacy. Our Volunteers are the heart of our advocacy efforts. Because of the information we receive from our Volunteers and our social media networks, we’ve been able to defeat the proposed ER Misuse fee, and tell Congress how important the Commissary benefit is to our nation’s military families. Currently, we are asking Congress to be thoughtful about TRICARE reforms.
  • Scholarships. This year, our NMFA Volunteers worked tirelessly supporting our Joanne H. Patton Military Spouse Scholarship program. Eighty Volunteers judged 4,726 scholarships! These Volunteers donated an equivalent of $65,000 to military spouse education!

So what do all of these projects have in common? Each of these projects happen in local communities, and in some cases the comfort of your own home. Our scholarship judging project is a virtual project. Volunteers choose the events and meetings they attend, and conference calls happen at differing times to accommodate multiple time zones and schedules. Do any of these opportunities sound like something you are interested in?

Do you want to help your own military family and the military families in your community? Then join our Volunteer Corps

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager

Selling Yourself: Volunteer Experience on Your Resume Has Value

It’s PCS season for many military families, and you know what that means: it’s a great time to think about your resume.

Huh? What?

Yes, your resume. You may be starting over, once again, or you may decide to reinvent yourself. Maybe you’re jumping back into the workforce after a break. Whatever your situation, it’s a great time to jazz up your resume–especially figuring out the best way to leverage your volunteer experience.

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Military spouses volunteer A LOT. And those skills and experiences are part of your professional growth. Whether managing volunteers, building a house for a deserving family, or organizing the picnics and potlucks at your spouse’s unit, it all adds to your skill set.

And, it should be part of your resume.

So, are you saying the day I spent cleaning up trash in my community is the skill set of my next career path?

It could be. But not unless it’s important to you. As a volunteer director and hiring manager, I’ve seen a lot of resumes. When it comes to resume writing, your volunteerism takes a back seat, falls to the end of the page–and that’s if it makes it on your resume at all. As a military spouse, our resumes are a reflection of who we are, where we’ve been, and how much we make a difference. Not just for a community, but for an employer. Don’t sell yourself short by not including that time you volunteered in the community.

Because I have a secret for you: ALL experience matters.

So, this summer when you’re at the pool, take some time to think about your volunteer skills and experience. Jot them down. The next resume you send out shouldn’t be all about showing them the money. Show them who you are and why you’re the best candidate.

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For help in creating resume bullets from your volunteer experience, check out these military spouse resume resources:

What ideas or resources would you give to a military spouse updating their resume?

christinaPosted by Christina L. Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director

Virtual Volunteering at NMFA: How does it work?

When people ask what I do for the National Military Family Association, as the Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager, it’s always hard for me to explain! I manage our Volunteers in the West Region…but I do it all virtually. Most people are used to the traditional type of volunteering–the “hands on” kind where volunteers show up, receive an assignment, finish it, and go home. There are really not a lot of ‘virtual volunteers’ out there.

One of the most important things the NMFA Volunteers do is support our advocacy mission. NMFA began as an organization that spoke up for military families, and this remains our focus today. Our Volunteers collect information about the issues and concerns military families have in their local communities, and provide that knowledge to our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. As we gather this local information from around the world, we can speak for military families on a national level.

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Another important task NMFA Volunteers carry out is telling military families about our organization! They share our valuable information and resources and talk about the wonderful things NMFA can offer military families–like scholarships for military spouses, and unique camp experiences through our Operation Purple® Program. We advocate for military families, but we also empower military families with knowledge and confidence to advocate for themselves. NMFA strives to provide information and programs to help military families improve their lives.

There is absolutely no other way NMFA would be able to speak about the experiences and perspectives of military families of the seven uniformed services serving all over the globe without our strong and capable Volunteer Corps. And the most effective way for military families to learn about us is from an NMFA Volunteer who is active in the community where they live! Our Volunteers are NMFA’s face, and our voice in local military communities everywhere.

You might be wondering how I can manage a Volunteer Corps on multiple continents…all from my computer. Other volunteer managers I’ve met along the way had the same sentiment, “It must be hard to not have the daily ‘hands-on’ volunteer management experience! ”

But I disagree! Our Volunteer Corps is unique and extremely valuable to the overall mission of the National Military Family Association. I get to play a part in NMFA’s success by communicating with our Volunteers all over the world. I get to hear what’s happening in the lives of military families, and I hear about all of the wonderful things that individual states, cities, and other non-profit organizations are doing locally to celebrate and support military families.

Most importantly, I get to connect and work with amazingly smart, dedicated and talented military spouses who, like me, love the military life and want to make it better!

Do you have a desire to make your military community better? Join our Volunteer Corps and give a voice to your local installation. Together we’re stronger®!

liz-lPosted by Liz Larsen, Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager, West Region