Category Archives: Volunteers

Give Thanks for Open Doors and Open Arms

In towns that surround military communities across the country live local citizens who may have never experienced the life of a service member firsthand. However, the sight of a moving truck is a regular occurrence in their neighborhoods, and they may even be able to hear bugle calls from their home while sipping their morning coffee. The people in these communities may rarely set foot on the military base nearby, but their lives are interwoven with the military families who live among them.

They are the business owners who welcome the sight of uniformed personnel in their establishments. They are the community leaders who plan events and parades to honor local veterans every single year. They are the preachers who call spouses of deployed service members, just to check in. They are the school administrators who ensure that the military children in their schools are receiving enriching, supportive educational experiences.

They know that when their own children befriend the new kid at school, a military child, they are taking a bit of an emotional risk. Military children don’t often stay more than a couple of years in their town. They know that even though their own children are not military children, they will likely feel the sting of painful goodbyes.


These school board members, city council members, teachers, physicians, business owners, ministers, postal workers, neighbors, and friends are all too familiar with the ebb and flow of new military families that arrive to their communities every year while the ones they’ve known for a couple of years pack up and move away.

But they welcome us anyway. They greet us with open doors and open arms. They learn our names, and they befriend us. They care for us.

To the local families who live among military communities: thank you. Thank you for the countless jobs you do to make these towns great places for military families to live. Thank you for supporting and including your military-connected neighbors. Thank you for giving us a place to belong, a home, even if for only a short season.

Have you ever lived in an awesome community? What would you tell the civilian supporters around you? 

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

5 Easy Ways to Volunteer with NMFA (And Why You Should Join In!)

When I first joined the National Military Family Association as a Volunteer, I didn’t think I would be able to contribute very much since I stay home full-time with my two toddlers. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to give back to the military community even with tiny humans in tow.

You may think you have to choose between staying at home with little ones and volunteering in the community, but the NMFA allows you to do both! There are even virtual volunteer opportunities, as well as community engagement events that can easily fit a busy parent’s schedule.


So, where do you start?

  1. Facebook Groups. This is a great way to start since you already have an online network of military spouses and parents. Engage in conversations, pose questions and look for trends to report.
  2. Playgroups. Look for local playgroups in your area. Most likely, there are military family playgroups as well as civilian groups in your community.  Introduce yourself and bring some materials to hand out to the group, or start your own group!
  3. Military Housing. Housing is a great way to get the word out about NMFA. Welcome new neighbors with helpful resources and place brochures in the leasing office. If your housing community has a monthly newsletter, ask if you can include a piece on NMFA. Also, find out about any potential table events or expos that would have participation available. Even if you don’t live in housing, you can still contact the office manager or events coordinator at your local military housing office. They are always looking for new resources for their residents!
  4. Military Installations. Head to your local military installation and drop off some literature to other military organizations. A few suggestions would be: Fleet and Family Services, USO, and Youth and Teen Centers.
  5. Local Spots. Think about spots you already frequent with your kids: coffee shops, frozen yogurt shops, libraries, museums, parks, children’s events, etc. Keep a bag of supplies in your car and drop off materials during your weekly visits.

The National Military Family Association provides all the tools you need to succeed as a Volunteer. I love that I am able to stay easily connected to my Volunteer Manager, as well as the entire volunteer team through emails, phone calls, webinars, and Facebook. And the best part? I can achieve my volunteer goals while spending time with my kids!

Have you considered joining the NMFA Volunteer Corps? It’s the perfect time!

Posted by Amanda Schwenk, National Military Family Association Volunteer, San Diego, CA

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.


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!


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.


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!


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:


  • 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