Tag Archives: volunteers

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.

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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.

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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

10 Reasons Parents Happily Say Goodbye to Summer!

School is back in session. You can’t see me, but my arm is raised with a fist pump! It’s been a great but loooooooooooonnnng summer. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been looking forward to this day since mid-July. Of course, having the kids home for almost three months has given us a chance to sleep in, extra snuggles and tickles, parent-child bonding, travel and adventures. I love them so much my heart wants to burst, but my house has been bursting with kids, noise and stuff all summer. There are a few reasons I’m happy summer is in my rear-view mirror.

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  1. Rediscovering the foreign sound of silence.
  2. Not doing other children’s laundry. Yeah, that’s right. The random socks, t-shirts, shorts that are left over after an all day of play or sleepovers. It was cute in June…annoying by August.
  3. Cereal boxes opened by a T-Rex. The cardboard box top is ripped to shreds, the plastic bag that holds the cereal has a hole where one should not exist, and there is more cereal on the floor and the counter than in the bowl. I’m attributing this chaos to the unfortunate small arms of the cereal eating T-Rex that lives sight-unseen in my home.
  4. Finishing a sentence. This one needs little explanation.
  5. The appearance of my mud room/entry way. For most of the summer it looked like the shoe department in a thrift store that just had their red tag sale.
  6. The daily clean up of unfinished art projects. Seriously, it’s like my daughter leaves a trail of art supplies and paper all over the house from morning to night. If I can’t find her, I follow the endless art droppings around the house to find her napping with crayons still in her grip.
  7. My living room strangely resembled a frat party or a cheap KOA campsite this summer. By the end of the day there are multiple blankets, solo cups, plates, bits of food, books, games, clothes and strange inventions. I pick it up at night, only to return to the same party site again the next day.
  8. Talking on the phone without interruptions. All summer my work and personal phone conversations have been interrupted for emergencies such as, “He looked at me,” or “She touched me,” or “Can I have your lipstick because I can’t find my red marker?” and the true emergency of, “I’m bored.”
  9. Finding juice boxes and freeze pop wrappers in sneaky, lazy places like in between my couch cushions, under my planters outside or just “near” the trashcan. Over it.
  10. The daily fly massacre with my most lethal and accurate fly swatter at 6 pm nightly when I finally discover what door was left open all day.

Actually, I’m going to miss my kids after a few weeks of being by myself again. Grown ups will be too serious, and my job will begin to pick up intensity again. The silence will grow too long, the house will be too clean, the quietness will be too much for a busy mom who loves her children and their friends. I’ll miss being the Kool-Aid house where everyone is welcome to stop by, grab a treat, get a hug and play until it’s time to find their way home – some just stay.

But, until it does, I’m going to bathe in the stillness of my house with my coffee in hand while alone watching the school bus drive away. Next year, we will PCS again, so this was our last summer with friends from the neighborhood. I’m really going to miss the summer….sometime near the October.

What do you rejoice about when school starts again? Share it with us!

stacy-huismanPosted by Stacy Allsbrook Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer

Survive and Thrive: San Diego

San Diego, California is America’s amusement park–filled with trails to hike, beaches open to camping enthusiasts, and a fun nightlife. Don’t trust anyone who said they were bored in San Diego because this city will keep you on your toes.

It is one of the few military stations where landlords are willing to negotiate the rent, and rightfully so. San Diego can be expensive, but as long as you know how to budget, this city can be yours.

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Here’s a few tips  about living in San Diego:

Negotiate.
Can’t negotiate or refuse to negotiate? I suggest you tighten your belt and ask your future landlord to negotiate the rent. You must quickly move on from landlords who refuse to budge on the rental. San Diego has a 1% sales market. This means the city has few houses available for sale, making it a rental market.

I was able to negotiate  lower rent with lawn service included! What’s the secret to negotiating? Smile when you bid low. As a renter, the options for rent can be vast, depending on what you’re looking for.

Groceries.
Who needs community supported agriculture when you have community conscious grocery stores like Sprouts, who support local farms with their affordable, abundant and the freshest fruits, vegetables, herbs and legumes.

For my pantry, I shop at the commissary. The commissary has the best quality and prices on their selected meats, poultry and fish. Their birthday cakes are delicious. The best part of the commissary is that they routinely offer bulk items so my pantry was always stocked with the best.

Love ethnic food? San Diego offers the best ethnic grocery stores supporting cuisines from Iran, Korea, Vietnam, India, Japan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Italy, and many more. San Diego’s international grocery stores are the the United Nations of grocery stores!

San Diego is the queen of consignment shops.
You will soon realize that most people in San Diego are fashion forward. Don’t fret if you don’t have the cash to keep up. Just graze the local thrift shops, like Amvet, Goodwill, and independent consignment shops, to see what you can find! I bought all of my swanky ball gowns at the consignment shops on Spring Street in La Mesa.

Side note: get your hair and makeup done at the many salons that cater to Quinceañeras and weddings. You’ll be the envy of the ball!

MWR is the key to the city.
Want to see a play? Concert? Ride the roller coasters? A panda is pregnant at the San Diego Zoo and you like to witness the birth? Want to take a selfie with your favorite princess at Disney? Maybe your team is playing in San Diego? A museum that needs your viewing? Want to tour the wineries in Temecula?

Visit MWR for all of your recreational activities. They have the best deals to movies, plays, concerts, museums, zoo entrance, theme parks and tours. I suggest you also cross reference with the places you like to visit to see who offers the best deal.

Don’t forget to ask everyone about their military discount. Don’t be shy!

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Weather.
Chuck that raincoat. Break the umbrella. Pin all the ways your galoshes can be beautiful planters.

Say hello to constant sunshine. Just like winter, constant sunshine can become depressive, too. To combat depression, make sure you find a healthy activity to keep your mind and body refreshed. I suggest spinning on the beach at the Hotel Del Coronado, yoga at Mountain Hawk Park in Chula Vista, or paddle boarding around Mission Bay’s shore.

Make sure you have extra hats, sunscreen, rash guards and light long-sleeved cardigans to shield yourself and your family from the sun.

Social clubs.
San Diego is very social. Voted the best place to host conventions, San Diego thrives on all kinds of enthusiasts, from hikers, to bikers, and Comic Con cos-players. There’s a club to cater your hobby. Check meetup.com to find your new best friend.

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Beaches.
There are several beaches. The best are on the military installations in the San Diego area. My favorite beach was Breakers Beach on Coronado in the North Island Naval base. Breakers offers us a private beach, allowing my kids to roam freely without fearing strangers stealing our stuff or bothering us.

You can camp on Camp Pendleton’s beach, or rent their beach cabins. You can rent boats, paddle boards, and  kayaks at the Marine Corp Recruiting Depot in Point Loma.

I can truly go on forever about all the activities in San Diego but it’s best for me to allow you to explore for yourself. You know you’re home in San Diego when you find your favorite taco and craft beer.

Have you been stationed in San Diego? What did you love about it?

Posted by Fari Bearman, National Military Family Association Volunteer

Dear New Teacher, It’s My Military Child’s First Day of School

Dear New Teacher,

Today my child enters your classroom for the first time in a new school. It might be the first day of the school year, or it might be inconveniently smack-dab in the middle of a grading period. He likely knows no one in his homeroom class, likely no other children in the school.

Every child has a story to tell, and mine is no different. I am hoping to share a bit of his story with you since you will be with him, teaching and guiding him, this year. His story includes attending preschools in three different states. He will be in second grade next year. And he will be preparing to move again to a new school, his third elementary school since Kindergarten.

His daddy deployed to a combat zone when he was very young, and has been home for the past few years. But my son knows what soldiers do. He knows that someday his daddy will likely deploy again to a place he can’t yet find on a map for more days than he can count, for reasons nearly impossible for a child to understand.

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He didn’t choose this life.

But I asked him if he ever wishes that he weren’t a military kid, and he said, “No, why? What would Daddy do if he weren’t in the Army?” You see, this is the only life he knows. He is a happy, resilient, funny, sweet kiddo. I’m so proud of each obstacle he has overcome.

We do have bad days, though. He misses his old friends, our old home, our old church, and our old routines. He occasionally asks when we can go visit our old houses, and the restaurants and parks in a town we used to live in. To be honest, military life is downright difficult sometimes. But this is one thing I’ve learned: military children are so very strong. And so very brave. Military children are resilient. They simply don’t know how to be anything less.

Please keep in contact with me and let me know if he has any difficulties in school during (and after) this transition. The purpose of this letter is not only to inform you of my son’s background but to affirm our family’s commitment to support him, and you, his teacher.

Thank you for answering the call to educate the children of our great nation. What a truly noble and worthy profession you have chosen! Thank you for loving children who aren’t your own, and shaping their lives forever. And thank you for supporting our military-connected child, during yet another transition for him. Because of your support at school and the support of our community, my spouse is able to commit fully to his own calling: serving our country.

Sincerely,
Mama of a Military Child

What would you tell your child’s new teacher? 

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