Tag Archives: volunteers

The Military Community Needs You: Here’s How You Can Help!

To kick off National Volunteer Appreciation Week, I posed the question: is volunteerism in our military communities dying? Shocking question, isn’t it? It might be, but I think the military community should pay attention to the answer.

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Military spouses are reporting a slight decline in the time they spend volunteering within their own military communities. Instead, they say they are volunteering more in their civilian communities.

Think about that for a minute.

I think volunteering in either community is greatly appreciated. Volunteerism can be a family activity, a day of service, or simply a way to give back to others however you can. Getting involved in a cause builds strength in a community, breaks down barriers, and allows love and compassion to thrive.

But why are military spouses not giving back to their own as much as they used to? What’s so important about volunteering within the military community?

Because no one should walk through military life alone. Sharing experiences, struggles, and accomplishments are what bring people closer together. Extending help by sharing resources, providing information on programs, or lending a helping hand is all part of what makes us stronger.

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I encourage you to look for ways to volunteer in your military community. Volunteering doesn’t have to be time consuming. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a few ideas.

  • Reach out to the installation Volunteer Program Manager. This person usually has the low down on volunteer opportunities on the installation.
  • Get involved with your family support group. It doesn’t have to be a huge task, there are simple ways to volunteer that will be appreciated.
  • Try Child and Youth Services. If your kids play sports, help out the team or the coach.
  • Check into military faith-based organizations. There are many ways to volunteer. Choose what works for you!

Not living on or near an installation?

  • Find a local organization that helps support military families or veterans.
  • Find out what your local church or religious organization is doing to support military families and get involved. Or, maybe start a program and get others involved!
  • Network with your military family friends on social media sites. Find out where they’re volunteering and tag along.

Of course, you already know how awesome our NMFA Volunteer Corps is, but if you want want to get some other ideas of how you can help the military community, check out our list of incredible ways to get involved or to support our nation’s families.

What other ways can you volunteer in your military community? Let us know!

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director

Is Volunteerism Dying in our Military Community?

I know, this is not the blog you expect to kick off National Volunteer Appreciation Week, but, stay with me for a minute.

It is a known fact that military spouses are the cornerstone of volunteerism in military communities. They volunteer with their family readiness groups, at the family service centers, at the installation clinic/hospital, installation faith-based organizations, with child and youth sports teams, and still find time to volunteer in their civilian communities.

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This week, military installations around the world will hold up a big check that calculates the value of a volunteer’s time based on the number of volunteer hours reported. And trust me, that check will have a BIG dollar number on it.

But is volunteerism dying in our military communities?

In NMFA’s 2016 military spouse scholarship application, we asked 3,876 spouses about their volunteerism. 58% said they volunteer in some way. And they spend A LOT of time volunteering. 20% volunteer 51-100 hours and 38% volunteer 11-50 hours, annually.

Of those, 12% volunteer ONLY in their military community while 30% volunteer in both civilian and military communities.

But here’s something interesting, and perhaps even alarming: 68% of military spouses spend more time volunteering in their civilian communities. 

Why would that be? Maybe it’s a lack of time due to the operational tempo and multiple deployments. Maybe it’s a lack of certain types of volunteer opportunities. Or maybe military spouses are just tired.  For the past four years, our survey has shown this downward trend in volunteerism within military communities.

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“Most volunteering hours require a minimum time. That time is usually during working hours,” Meg, a military spouse shared. “When it is not during working hours, the time commitment expectation is such that it deeply cuts into the already precious time with my spouse and child. At the end of the day, the cost in time and money often doesn’t outweigh the personal joy and satisfaction of volunteering for a good cause.”

For the past four years, we have surveyed this group of military spouses about their volunteerism. Year to year not much has changed, but our survey alludes to a decrease in volunteerism in military communities.

Whatever the reason, military communities need to pay attention. If our military communities don’t start asking questions, they’ll lose one of their best assets: military spouses and their gift of time, energy, and talent they provide.

Do you volunteer in your military community? Why or why not?

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director

6 Ways Civilians Can Help Military Families

You’re probably reading this because the title spoke to you. Maybe you have a desire to give back to a community that has given so much already? Or perhaps you want to see if you’ve ever done any of these things?

Whatever the case, you’re here. And that’s awesome. It’s extremely important that we continue to remember our nation is at war. We’re in our 15th year of war, actually. Fifteen years.

In that time, a child could complete a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree. Since the start of this war in 2001, we could have potentially seen four different Presidents elected in 15 years. We’ve watched the United States compete in seven Olympic Games, cast our votes to crown 14 American Idols, and some of us have remained loyal fans through 30 seasons of Survivor.

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And through those 15 years, military families have continued to sacrifice while their loved ones serve and protect our freedom to see all of those amazing things happen.

As members of this country, we owe a great deal to the men and women who fearlessly defend, but we must not forget that military families serve, too.

If you’ve sent care packages to deployed service members, or run 5K races to honor the fallen, you’ve answered the important question, “What are you doing to serve others?”

But let me ask you this: what small token of ‘thanks’ could you do for military families? How can you show the children of deployed parents that they’re brave, too? Is there a simple way to encourage a military spouse in your life?

Serving others, in any capacity, is invaluable. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to start.

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We’ve got you covered. Here are 6 ways any person can support and serve military families:

  1. Support NMFA through concession stand purchases at a game
  2. Sponsor a toy or supply collection to support our military kids at camp
  3. Ask your employer to host a Casual Friday/Dress Down day event at work
  4. If you own a business, commit to hire a military spouse
  5. Spread the word on social media with pictures and videos of fundraisers that benefit military families
  6. Help organize a community welcome home ceremony for returning military members

If any of these simple ideas sound like something you want to do within your own community, let NMFA help you get started! We’ve got a few other ideas and ways you, your employer, or anyone else can make a difference in the lives of military families.

Donations are wonderful, too. It’s how NMFA continues to do the work we do. But sometimes, what’s more valuable than the donation is the person who gave it. You can add value to the military community. They need your support. Give time. Change lives. Together we’re stronger.

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Why Your MilSpouse Resume Isn’t Cutting It

You’ve PCS’d to a new location. You’re all settled in—boxes are (mostly) unpacked, kids are in school, dog has calmed down and gotten used to the new place, and you’re ready to start working again. But how do you make yourself stand out in the crowd? You have a beautifully designed resume that shows off your amazing skills. You have a new suit to wear to interviews. You have practiced all the tough questions, and even have a great answer to the dreaded “What are your weaknesses?” question.

So why isn’t anyone calling you for an interview??? It could be your cover letter.

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If you just said “What cover letter?” you’re not alone. Research shows only 50% of job applicants send cover letters.

But we have news for you: as a military spouse, you can’t afford to be part of the 50% who don’t send a cover letter. You must take this extra step to make yourself stand out in a crowd if you want to land that job.

The cover letter is Step 1. However, there are probably other things you’re doing that are keeping you from getting a callback.

The following are a list of job-seeking don’ts for military spouses. For each one you’re guilty of, bow your head a little deeper in shame. Kidding!

But be honest, have you ever…

Called the organization by the wrong name? This is an easy mistake to make when you’re filling in a cover letter template. Cover letters should be specialized for the position you’re applying for. They should highlight how your experience would benefit the company and show that you’ve done your research. Bonus: Don’t call an Association a “company,” or vice versa.

Addressed your cover letter “Dear Hiring Manager,”? That’s just plain lazy. It only takes 2 minutes to look at the organization’s website and find that Hiring Manager’s name. If it takes you any longer, just call and ask “To whom should I address my cover letter for this position?”

Focused too much on yourself? “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” -JFK. Swap out “country” for “organization,” and this is your new mantra. The Hiring Manager (whose name you now know) doesn’t care if the office is really close to your house, or if the hours are convenient for you to get to your kid’s soccer practice. Those are great things, and you should high five your spouse about them when you get the job. Until then, focus on “what you can do for your country.”

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Tried to convince someone to let you work from home? We get it—you live in the middle of nowhere. We’ve been there. Unfortunately, when you see your dream job in New York City—now may not be the time for you. Many organizations are becoming much more open to telecommuting, but not every position is suited for telework. If a job description states you must work in the office (therefore, you must live in the area), that’s what it means.

Recapped your resume? Your cover letter should not recap your resume. This is especially important for military spouses because you have some explaining to do. You’ve moved, changed jobs (a lot), had gaps in your employment, and may have more volunteer experience than paid. Your cover letter is your chance to explain.

Sent something generic? Do your research. Besides explaining your spotty employment history, a cover letter is your chance to showcase what you can do for this organization. How can you explain that, if you don’t know what they do? Personalizing matters.

A few more things: remember, the interview starts when you hit send. Always follow up. End your cover letter with something like: “I will email/call on X date,” and then do it! Thank you emails are important, too. Keep those lines of communications open, and try to enjoy the journey. Ask for feedback and learn from each experience. Soon you’ll be standing with your head up high and enjoying lunch with your crop of new co-workers.

Did we miss any important tips? Let us know in the comments!

christinabesaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director, and Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Get Organized and Save Money During Your Next PCS!

As a military family, we move…a lot. And moving comes with a long list of expenses–everything from non-essentials while moving, to security and utilities deposits. But one place you can save some money is by keeping yourself organized so you don’t have to buy multiples of the same things because you can’t find them, or because you recently got rid of something that you will need in just a few years.

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Pack Outgrown Kids Clothing by Size
When kids outgrow clothing, it is easy to just throw them all in a few boxes and decide you will just go through the clothing and organize it if you have anymore children. But the majority of the time, those boxes end up donated or mismarked, and you find a box of clothing that is too small for any of your little ones, months after it would have been useful. Instead, pack up clothing by size. I keep a clear plastic bin in my daughter’s closet with a label taped on the inside with the current size she is wearing. Then as she outgrows a piece of clothing, rather than returning the clothing to her drawers after washing them I place it directly into the bin.

By taping the label on the inside I don’t have to worry about the label getting lost or torn during moving. I labeled each bin with a simple breakdown. For example, the very first bin was labeled Newborn & 0-3 Months. I put everything from clothing to socks and hats. That way, if we ever have another child I know where to start.

Pack Up Kid Toys by Age
Using this same idea, I have been packing newborn and toddler toys in clearly marked oversized footlockers. That way, if another child is over visiting, or if we have anymore children, I will know exactly where to find the perfect age-appropriate toys, without paying for new toys each time.

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Keep Seasonal Wear, Even When You Know You Won’t Need it For a Few Years
When orders come in and you find yourself moving to a warm and sunny climate, it can be tempting to void your closet of all your oversized wool sweaters, winter coats, and snow gear. But we all know what happens when four years later, you find yourself PCSing way up north. All of sudden you have to go and repurchase all those things you got rid of. It is a rookie mistake almost every military family makes at some point. One easy way to save some money is to invest in a few really good storage containers and fill them will all your seasonal wear that will now be obsolete.

Hold onto Household Goods That Might Not Fit Your Current Home
I know a lot of military families that have a box with multiple move stickers on the outside with at least one set of curtains on the inside. When you move as often as we do, things like curtains and rugs often fit one house, but not the next. And buying curtains and rugs at each house can be quite expensive, so to save a little money, I keep a box of all those extra little things that may not fit this house, but just might fit our next.

It is amazing how much staying organized can really save your family money in the long run! If you’re interested in learning how to save even more money, take the pledge to save as a part of Military Saves Week!

Where do you save money through organization in your home?

Posted by Tara O., National Military Family Association Volunteer

Volunteering Isn’t About the Recognition, It’s About This…

I’m sure there are some people who feel like volunteering is a waste of time; you don’t get paid and, for the most part, you don’t get any awards or recognition. So why would I volunteer when I am busy with so many other things?

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Two things became incredibly important to me when I was young: giving back to others, and our military. My family had always been very involved in our local church and because of that, I learned the importance of serving the community. The military portion came because most of my family was either currently serving, or had served in the military when I was young. This was incredibly influential for me. It made such an impact in my young life to hear the stories of what my great grandfather did in World War II, and how, even after all those years, he couldn’t stand mice because of some horrors he’d faced in combat. I talked with my grandfather, who served in the Air Force, and heard all the things he’d done, and how those things led him to a career at NASA after he retired. My Dad served as a Blackhawk pilot, and I remember the things he’d do that made me realize some people really were heroes; some people had honor and lived differently, and had a different code than other people. I would watch him with awe, even when I was too young to understand–like when he would stop the car as they lowered the flag on post and he’d get out and stand and salute the flag. But I knew these things meant something, and that my dad was special, even when he left rather quickly on a deployment to Somalia, immediately after the battle of Mogadishu happened.

All these things made such an impact on my life, but what made the biggest impact was probably when my brother decided to enlist in the Army, the day after September 11, 2001. Later on, when he was in Iraq and I was in college, I decided I needed to do something to give back. I knew I wasn’t able to serve in the military myself, but I knew what family members go through–I wanted to do something to give back to service members and their families. That desire started my path and my passion for volunteering, and I started my first volunteer group for the military. It changed my life so much I decided I wanted to make it a career, and planned to go full time into working with a military non-profit.

But life doesn’t ever work out the way you think it will. I met my husband in college, and after we graduated, he enlisted in the Army, and I became a full-time wife and mom. It was when we were stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas that a friend told me about the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and all they did to represent our service members and their families. I knew, immediately, I wanted to get involved and do everything I could to volunteer again.

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Once upon a time, I had dreamed of going into the non-profit field to work full time for a military support organization, and maybe one day I could support my military husband by taking care of our small kids by staying home. Volunteering with NMFA means I get to live my passion. I enjoy be able to give a tiny bit back to those who do so much for us. Volunteering means I get to keep making a difference.

There isn’t anyone who needs more support, or who has done more to deserve it, than our service members and their families. So I will continue volunteering as long as I possibly can. The rewards may not come in a paycheck or in a certificate you can hang on your wall, but knowing you are making a difference in the lives of those who are putting everything on the line for us is reward enough. That’s better than any paycheck or certificate I’ve ever received.

Do you have any connection to the military and have a desire to give back to them? Consider joining our Volunteer Corps!

Posted by Mandi Verlander, National Military Family Association Volunteer and military spouse

Military Spouse Finds Fulfillment Through Volunteering With NMFA!

We’d just moved cross-country…again, and I was looking to keep myself busy. There was a posting on a social media site that a local organization was going to be hosting a resource fair, so I thought I’d check it out. Since we had gotten to our new duty station, I hadn’t really found where all the community services were, and I knew this would be a great start to finding what was out there.

As I was moving through the tables on the day of the fair, I saw the National Military Family Association table. I applied for their scholarship once, but vaguely remembered about it, since it had been so long ago. One of the regional coordinators greeted me and spoke about the Association with so much passion. And they needed volunteers.

I could take some time and do this, why not?

Volunteer banner NMFA

I hadn’t found a job yet, and the prospects were meager. So I took the brochures, looked through them, and saw all the great things NMFA does for military families. They had me at Operation Purple Camps! I hadn’t known much, back then, about the Association, other than scholarships, but once I found out about all the great things they do, I jumped on the opportunity to help.

Since joining the NMFA Volunteer Corps, I have hosted NMFA tables a few resource fairs–spreading the word about the Association is a great thing! I am also on social media, sharing posts from NMFA. When we lived in the Washington D.C. area, I was so fortunate to be able to take part in Association-sponsored events and related opportunities, events hosted at NMFA headquarters, and I even attended White House events, too! Those are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!

What I enjoy about volunteering is telling people all about what the Association does for military families. They are surprised at the amount of advocating we do on Capitol Hill. I also enjoy hearing they have sent their children to an Operation Purple Camp, or that they went to one of the retreats and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recently, one of our NMFA scholarship recipients came up to the table I was hosting, and told me she was a scholarship winner; to me, those are the things that make me happy and proud to be a Volunteer. It’s awesome to hear all of the great, first-hand stories of all the ways NMFA helps military families!

Now that we’ve crossed the country (again!), we are at a duty station where not many have heard about the Association. This is the perfect opportunity to share such an awesome resources with the military families in my new area. Volunteering has been a great experience from the beginning, and I will continue to do so every chance I get!

Do you volunteer in your community? Tell us what you love about it!

sylvia-salas-brownPosted by Sylvia Salas-Brown, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Army Spouse, Fort Hood, TX