Tag Archives: volunteers

Military Mom’s Gym Bag: 4 Excuse-Busting Ways to Get Your Workout Done

As a military wife and stay at home mom, I’ve had to get creative with my workouts over the past few years. With the help of amazing resources on our post, I have been able to get my workouts in and not make excuses. Before parenthood, I would go to the gym whenever I wanted, but now it is a little harder. I have a deep appreciation and love for exercise, because I feel absolutely amazing after a workout. Are you in the same boat? Here are some resources which might be available to help you get your workout in!


Strollers and Mommy: This is an exercise class where moms come together with their kids in their stroller. I have not personally done this; however, the one on post is taught by a personal trainer. In my location, the first class is free. What a great opportunity to see if it can work for you and your baby! Check out what options are available in your area, and if there aren’t any, consider starting a group!

Community Center Gym: Do you live on post? Well, if you do, you might be able to take advantage of the housing office community center gym. I have used the gyms in my housing community on Fort Hood and Fort Leavenworth. The housing office offers a small gym which has a play area for the kids (though all might not). It’s been a true blessing for this mommy, for sure! I can exercise and watch my kid Monday-Sunday from 5am-10pm. If I want to go when the housing office is closed, I have a key card which allows me to enter. Remember, this is usually a smaller gym, but it should be equipped with cardio and weight training. Thanks to this resource, I am not paying for a gym membership, daycare, and/or extra fees.

MWR Gym:  At this point in my life, I don’t use the MWR gyms as much as I did in the past. However, I do get over there from time to time when my husband can watch my little one, or if she is in preschool. These gyms are much bigger and offer many more machines and activities. Free weights, cardio, weight machines, classes, basketball, and much more all under one roof. Another great reason I use this gym is the sauna and shower. I can work out, use the sauna, shower, dress, and go home. This is a great option, so I can get home and spend more time with the family.

Child Development Centers (CDC) Hourly Care: Once you have been through registration at the CDC, you can reserve spots for your child in hourly care. For a few dollars an hour, your child is looked after. I have used hourly care on several occasions for my three-year-old, and it is a true blessing. There are days when I want to go running or not stop every five minutes with weight training. CDC hourly care is another great option. Plus, it is usually a few streets away from the gym.

Working out takes dedication, even for those without children, but with a little extra effort and resourcefulness, you won’t miss out!

What tips do you have for other military spouses trying to balance parenting and exercise? Share it with us!

Posted by Jessica Richardson, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Fort Leavenworth, KS

Tips and Tricks for a Successful DITY Move!

My husband and I just experienced our first true PCS move together as a married couple and we decided to do a DITY move (also known as a Personally Procured Move)! I will be honest: the idea of people in my home, packing my stuff and then moving it across the country made my Type-A personality incredibly uncomfortable. I have heard stories about moves gone bad. At least with a DITY, any issues were our own!

Some DITY best practices:

  1. Start early and clean out often. We had to really rationalize if something was worth moving…again.
  2. Pack up the seldom used items first and then decide if it might be time for a garage sale or to donate. This is a great time to pack them up those “necessary” wedding presents and promise yourself you will use them at the next place or put them up for sale!
  3. Shop where you can save time and money. Amazon Prime gives you access to 2-day shipping. I used Amazon for most of our packing materials. FYI: Packing materials are a reimbursable expense. You can also use Amazon Smile to have a portion of your proceeds go to the NMFA! Home Depot was my second go to for this move. I used a packing calculator to determine how many boxes we would need and ordered a variety of sizes. We kept all of our boxes from this last move and plan to use them again. The we picked up our rental truck from Penske. We chose Penske because they had the lowest rate overall, offered a 10% discount for booking online, as well as a 10% military discount when you pick it up in store.
  4. Don’t forget about your pets! Moving can be stressful for your animals, especially during a DITY move. Bring plenty of water, treats and food, comfortable bedding, and toys for your animals while traveling. Also, keep their vaccination records on hand and make sure their microchips and name plates are up to date. As for hotels, La Quinta will let up 2 pets stay for free in a hotel room and they even have dog potty stations at their hotels.
  5. Have help for loading and unloading. This was probably the most difficult part of the move. If we did it again, I would hire movers to load/unload the truck.


Other tips:

  • Invest in plastic storage bins
  • Keep in mind that while weight is a crucial part of your reimbursement, the more items you add to your truck is more you have to unload when you get to your destination
  • Research weigh stations beforehand! The closest weigh station was 50 miles in the opposite direction from where we lived.
  • Don’t forget that some costs will need to be paid up front

Despite the difficulty of the move, it was nice to have all of our stuff as soon as we got here. Within 2 days, it already looked like home. We made sure to save our receipts for reimbursement and researched the rates to get an expected amount for per diem, dislocation allowance (DLA), mileage etc. We spent about $1,800 upfront and our reimbursement was close to three times that.

Would I DITY again? Yes, I would, and I would recommend it to anyone that is up for some hard work and adventure (or if they just want to ease their mind by doing it themselves).

Have you ever done a DITY move? Leave your tips for others in a comment!

Posted by Lesley Boatright, NMFA Volunteer, Fort Benning, GA, Army Spouse

Survive and Thrive: Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston and its surrounding areas are full of history and intrigue for the casual weekend vacationer looking for a getaway. It’s also awesome for the military families who live in the area! It’s no surprise that Charleston was recently named the best city by Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.

Charleston Geography
When first moving to the “low country,” as this area of South Carolina is called, it can be a little daunting and difficult to navigate. Charleston refers to not only downtown Charleston, but is also comprised of smaller towns and communities in its surrounding area. If you are moving to here, make sure you have a map and a GPS to navigate the areas of downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, Folly Beach and the other communities in the area.

Charleston has several larger cities and tourist destinations within a five-hour drive including: Columbia, SC, Myrtle Beach, SC, Hilton Head SC, Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA and Orlando, FL.

Where to Live
For many in the Navy and Air Force, living in the base housing is an ideal option because of the proximity to base and the many amenities offered.


Those who do not mind a short drive, with possible traffic and sometimes frequent railroad-crossing stops might prefer to live off base in Goose Creek, Hanahan, Ladson, Summerville, or North Charleston. For those working on the Coast Guard base, the communities in West Ashley or Mount Pleasant offer affordable, family friendly options housing options.

Most of the neighborhoods and communities in this region have Home Owners Associations with amenities such as gyms, clubhouses, and pools. So if you plan on buying or renting, make sure you understand those additional costs and requirements before committing to purchase or rent a home here.

What to Do
The low country does not disappoint in events and activities available to those who live here. Joint Base Charleston has pools, gyms, movie theaters, bowing alleys, libraries, and an outdoor recreation center. Additionally there are biking and walking trails, dog parks, access to boating and fishing and disc golf courses on base.


For a day at the beach, head over to the Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, Sullivan’s Island, or SeaBrook Island. In addition to catching some rays, you can kayak, surf, windsurf, and kite surf. For the avid fisherman, there are many local companies that offer charter boat trips around the waters of the low country.


For a day out with the kids, there are many options including the Children’s Museum, Charleston Aquarium, Monkey Joe’s Indoor Play Space, Ice Palace for Ice Skating, and Velocity Air Sports. Also popular with kids during the summer months are the Charleston County water parks: Whirling Waters, Splash Zone and Splash Island.

For the history buff, check out Patriot Points (home to USS Yorktown and other smaller ships), Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, the H.L. Hunley (sunken confederate submarine), and Riverfront Park. There are also historic plantations including: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Middleton Place, Drayton Hall and Boone Hall, as well as the Nathaniel Russell House and Joseph Manigault House.


There are many festivals held throughout the year celebrating everything from the arts, local food and wine, breweries and much more. Charleston 2nd Sunday is a popular monthly event downtown on King Street with live music, local merchants and outdoor dining. Another popular festival is the annual Flowertown Festival. This is the largest arts and crafts festival in South Carolina, held the first weekend of April at Azalea Park in Summerville. It is a fun event and has something for all ages.

Charleston is also home to sports teams that offer military nights and discounts each season: Charleston Riverdogs (baseball), Charleston Battery (soccer), and Charleston Stingrays (hockey). College of Charleston, The Citadel and Charleston Southern University also have a variety of sports played on their campuses throughout the year. And located on Daniel Island, the annual Volvo Car Open Tennis Tournament is held at the Volvo Cars Stadium in April.

And let’s not forget shopping.  There are all types of options in the area, from flea markets, thrift stores, department stores and malls, to designer stores, like Louis Vuitton, and even outlets! For local goodies like the famous Sweetgrass baskets, hand made soaps, lotions and more, make sure you visit the Charleston Market.

What to Eat
In recent years, Charleston has gained a reputation of being a haven for foodies. From casual to upscale, there is a restaurant that will cater to every appetite.. There’s a wide variety of local restaurants that serve cuisines with Caribbean, African, American Southern and soul food influence. Popular must try restaurants are: EVO, Hominy Grill, Husk, Boxcar Betty’s, Taco Boy, and Smash Burger.

When living in Charleston, make sure to try some of these staples of the region: Carolina style barbecue (vinegar and mustard based), shrimp and grits, frogmore stew (sausage, crab, shrimp, onions, corn, and potatoes), boiled peanuts, sweet tea (supposedly first made in Summerville), and anything with pimento cheese.


Opportunities for Spouses
A great part of living in the Charleston region is that there are many opportunities for careers, additional education, and training for military spouses and families.

There are lots of opportunities for employment due to the large military presence, defense contractors, and local businesses in the area. There are also employment opportunities for positions for those with medical and teaching experience as there are many early childhood learning centers, K-12 schools and medical facilities on the military installations and in the area.

Say Hello to Charlie
By the time you have finished your stay living in Charleston, I hope you’ll agree that it’s a great place to live. If you’ve tried everything listed above and you don’t agree, please make sure to visit my good friend Charlie. He is the official Officer in Charge of Complaints on the NWS side of JB Charleston.


Have you ever been stationed in Charleston? What are your favorite things?

lauran-griffithsPosted by Lauren Griffiths, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer, Charleston, SC

Military Money Matters: 3 Resources to Encourage Financial Readiness

Did you attend the 2016 annual Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Meeting & Exposition? I had the chance to be there and I thought the family forums were a great way to learn about resources and topics of concern for service members and their families.

Preparing for a Life in or Outside the Army through Financial Readiness, Military Spouse Employment and Entrepreneurship” was a forum where various speakers touched on the importance of financial readiness within the Army.  There are three key resources that I would like to share with you, regardless of your branch:


  • Command Your Cash Microlearning Center

The USAA Educational Foundation’s simple purpose is to lead and inspire actions that improve the financial readiness for the military and local community. The Command Your Cash Microlearning Center consists of tools, tips and tactics to help military members develop sound financial habits and take control of their personal finances. These courses can be used to support your financial decision making and improvement by taking one or all four of the following areas: build your credit, manage your debt, save your money, and control your spending. Sign up and get started and make sure to follow them on social media and use #CommandYourCash to share what you have learned.

  • Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) Financial Coaches

CFPB launched 60 financial coaches throughout Department of Labor job centers and more than two dozen non-profit social services providers across the country to provide one-on-one coaching to help service members and their families plan for financial success. These financial coaches are free, trusted and certified AFCPE professionals ready to help your military family. Check out a list of financial coaching delivery sites, or visit the CFPB website for more information. A telecoaching function has been added for those service members and their families that are not near any of these centers. You can also look into On Demand Virtual training forums and tools through the CFPB website.

  • 2018 Blended Retirement System

Mr. Steve Hansen from Army G-1 briefly spoke about the blended retirement system that will take effect January 1, 2018. Those currently serving will have the choice to opt into the system, and there will be online training and resources uploaded to the Joint Knowledge Online system, as well as one-to-one opportunities if the service member still has questions and/or concerns. It is imperative more, now than ever, to begin planning whether it is beneficial for the service member of 12 years or less to opt into the new system. Has your family started planning for retirement?

Take this information and tackle your own financial challenges and turn them into successes. Are you educating yourself in the upcoming retirement changes and the long term positive affects it can have in your retirement portfolio? There is still time.

Share with us if you have used any of these programs already and how they have helped you and your family!

cynthia-gPosted by Cynthia Giesecke, NMFA Volunteer and 2012 Military Spouse Fellow candidate for the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) and part of the NMFA “Military Family Matters” blog team

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

Another “First Day of School?” Check Out These Tips!

School is back in swing, and we know it can be an exciting time filled with new experiences, teachers, and friends, but along with that excitement often comes a bit of apprehension. Those concerns can be amplified for military children who, according to the National Military Family Association, change schools on average six to nine times during their K-12 years. Pediatric neuropsychologist, Dr. Jim Olsen states, “uncertainty is the number one challenge for kids and the cause of most anxiety during [a] move.”

If your family has recently relocated to a new duty station, take a moment to recognize that mixed emotions are normal! Staying in touch with friends from former duty stations can help kids establish a sense of continuity in their nomadic military lifestyle, and the era of social media, smart phones, and Skype has made it easier than ever to do so. I’ve found that social media can also be a great way to engage with a new community. Check out school social media pages for clubs, sports, and other ways to get involved and meet potential friends.


In the quest for new friendships, don’t forget to encourage your family to occasionally put down the electronics and reach out to others in person (neighborhood Halloween party, anyone?). Sometimes the best ways to make new friends are the decidedly old-fashioned ones. If you have older children, volunteering over the summer, or during breaks at school, can be a great way to make new connections, fill school community service requirements, build a resume for future college applications, and a surefire way to start feeling at home.

What else can you do to ease your military kid’s transition back to class this fall?

Use the first few months of the new school year as an opportunity to establish good communication with school and educational staff. Let your child’s teacher know about any special circumstances that might impact their classroom performance such as a current or upcoming deployment, homecoming, reintegration challenges, or changes of duty station. This is particularly important if your family is living in a non-military town where teachers and staff may be less familiar with the lifestyle challenges of the military family.

The new school year is also a good time to assess how your child is progressing academically and determine if any assistance is needed to reach educational goals. The Department of Defense offers free memberships to Tutor.com for all K-12 military students providing one-on-one online tutoring and homework assistance in math, science, social studies, languages, and test preparation. Check it out!

If you are located on or near a military base, make sure to take advantage of the many resources available through community service programs designed to help your child succeed in school. Have a child with special educational needs? School liaison officers are available to serve as disability advocates. Need help purchasing school supplies to start the school year? Check out Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade program which distributed more than 25,000 backpacks full of school supplies last year to children aboard military installations nationwide. Reach out to your family readiness/liaison officer or ombudsman for more information about these and other installation specific programs.

Making the transition from the lazy days of summer back to regular school routines can be stressful for both children and parents alike. Calm first day of school nerves by practicing the new routine a few days in advance. Routines are comforting for children, and knowing what to expect will make the first day run much more smoothly for everyone. Most importantly, don’t forget to smile for those first day of school pictures! It’s the beginning of a brand new year of learning and fun.

What are some tips you have for military kids who are starting a new school?

Posted by Barbara Eastom-Bates, 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