San Diego County is filled with veterans, many of whom face struggles when they leave active duty. Often the transition to civilian life requires additional education and, in many cases, financial assistance. A nonprofit organization called the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) has been stepping in to help veterans face these challenges since 1904.
The need for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society was recognized by veterans and their families long before the society was formed. Back then, the government couldn’t afford to provide a benefits package for its armed forces. There were no medical benefits for service families, and no retirement annuities or survivors’ benefits for families of deceased personnel. Sailors and Marines would often “pass the hat” to collect funds to help their shipmates’ widows and orphans.
The society was formed to offer more formal and organized assistance to vets and their families. Initial funding came from the proceeds of the 1903 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, which raised $9,500 for widows and families of enlisted men. Since then, the society has expanded its financial and educational assistance programs several times to meet new and growing needs. Although headquartered in Arlington, Va., the society has offices throughout the country and around the world on Navy and Marine Corps bases. The society has both paid and volunteer positions available.
All volunteers are trained as they move up the ladder in positions starting at the reception desk, then assisting in Quick Assist Loans for clients, and then casework for larger loans. The financial assistance provided is an interest-free loan or a grant, depending on the service member’s overall financial situation. NMCRS also has a Thrift Shop on the Navy base where volunteers work, and a registered nurse who makes free home visits to combat-injured marines and sailors in Southern California. The Relief Society also offers budget support for new families, emergency travel and disaster relief.
Two years ago, longtime local resident Andrea Mintz retired from the California Attorney General’s office and became a volunteer.
“Prior to coming to NMCRS, I had no experience or familiarity with the military,” she explains, “so I really enjoy learning about this area. More importantly, I get to help sailors and marines with their immediate financial needs so they can lower their stress levels, focus on their jobs and avoid a high-interest loan like those offered by payday-type lenders. I feel like Santa Claus when I am able to give an interest-free loan to a client.”
NMCRS has six different offices in San Diego County located on all major military bases, so volunteers have flexibility when it comes to choosing the location where they’d like to work. NMCRS also allows volunteers to choose their own hours which allows even more flexibility.
“CMRS is truly committed to making sure that volunteers are properly trained and feel productive,” Mintz says, “and that they are acknowledged for their efforts. I’ve made new friends and, most importantly, I can give back to the sailors and marines who are taking care of our country.”
For more information on the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, go to www.nmcrs.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the San Diego office at 619-767-6821.