NAS Lemoore is in full-gear for the annual Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) Fund Drive that begins today and runs through the end of April.
There are a couple of individuals on this base that have really stepped up to the plate to make this program possible. The first individual is Jeanes Cunningham, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Director for NAS Lemoore. Her work with this program is life-changing and I feel confident that we will have another positive year working with her and her capable team. The other individual who will spearhead the Fund Drive this year is Chief Ryan Springfield. He is the official Relief Drive coordinator for NAS Lemoore.
There is a pretty good story behind the founding of this organization as well as a long history of meaningful service to the men, women and families who support our great nation. More than 100 years ago, the organization was founded out of need and the desire to support those who offer so much to our country.
However, the need for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society was recognized long before it was officially organized. During the early years of our newly-formed nation, a benefits package for the armed forces was fiscally impossible. Additionally, there were no medical benefits for service families. Families of deceased personnel did not receive retirement annuities or survivors’ benefits. In order to ease these financial hardships, Sailors and Marines would “pass the hat” to collect funds for their shipmates’ widows and orphans.
In 1904, several Naval officers, wives of Naval officers and civilian friends saw the necessity for more formal and organized assistance, hence the birth of the modern-day NMCRS. The Society was officially incorporated, Jan. 23, 1904. The initial funding for the organization came from the proceeds of the 1903 Army-Navy Football Game held at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. In its first year, the Society gave $9,500 to widows and families of enlisted men.
The NMCRS continued to play a critical role in supporting our nation during World War I. It was not uncommon for military pay days to be significantly delayed. Once again, the Society stepped in to help Navy and Marine Corps families by helping to cover the gap and offering an interest-free loan program. Eventually, this financial assistance expanded to help with other needs, such as medical bills.
Anticipating the personal needs of those serving in the U.S. military during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized a public appeal for support to benefit military relief associations, including NMCRS. This national fundraising effort helped establish the Society’s Reserve Fund in 1942. This fund continues to provide a means of support and relief assistance not covered by other revenue streams, especially during catastrophic natural disasters that affect Navy and Marine Corps service members and their families.
Here at NAS Lemoore, we don’t have to look far to see how much the Society has helped our shipmates. Each of us has the means to positively impact a fellow service member’s life. Locally, the 2017 Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Fund Drive raised more than $163,940. Last year, the local branch of the Society served clients who received loans and grants totaling more than $550,000. If you do the math, you notice, like I did, that local clients received almost five times the amount of funds that were raised. This program can greatly benefit from all of our support.
It’s not just a money issue. It’s about providing the type of support we would all like to have during those times when we need it most. Those benefits are invaluable when service members need to travel to be with a sick or dying loved one. If service members are approved for emergency leave and need money to travel, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society can help them with an interest-free loan. The service member will only repay the amount borrowed and will not be required to begin repaying the loan until they return from emergency leave.
Other times, service members may need urgent funds for food, rent or utilities. If their families are in danger of going without these necessities, they are encouraged to see assistance from the Society. Additionally, service members can receive many benefits such as financial counseling, quick assist loans, education assistance, health education, post-combat support, baby budget or emergency travel. These various forms of assistance are coordinated and processed through the hard work of a dedicated volunteer-workforce who contributes their time, compassion and talents to support others within our military community. Last year, our volunteers donated almost 11,000 hours supporting of our local military community.
NAS Lemoore has our own NMCRS Thrift Shop. Besides benefiting Sailors and Marines who apply for assistance with the money from sales, the Thrift Shop offers a convenient and cost-effective way to shop. In 2017, our Thrift Shop brought in more than $50,000 in revenue, all as a result of our volunteers. This was all for the benefit of our Sailors, Marines and their families.
As we celebrate the Society’s 114 years and begin this year’s fund drive, I ask that each of you truly give your attention to your command representative when they present this year’s NMCRS Active Duty Fund Drive campaign. While financial donations are not mandatory, NMCRS representatives are required to make contact with every person in their commands. If a financially contribution is not feasible, perhaps you could consider volunteering for the NMCRS, that includes work at the Thrift Shop. Or, you could start your spring cleaning a little early and donate.
However you choose to contribute, always remember your donations will help provide assistance and support to Sailors and Marines who experience financial difficulties resulting from deployments, separations, family emergencies and other challenges in military life. Need is different for each of us.
Below is the link to NAS Lemoore's Active Duty Fund Drive page where you will be able to get information on the primary contacts, amounts raised, upcoming events and resources. Visit http://nmcrsfunddrive.org/lemoore/.
All my best,
Captain David James,
Commanding Officer, NAS Lemoore