LEMOORE — At its 62nd annual Gala, the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce will honor the local chapter of an organization that has been helping sailors and their families for more than a century.
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society will be honored as the Organization of the Year at the Chamber Gala on Friday, Jan. 17.
Relief service assistant Aimee Dexheimer said that news of the win came as a surprise.
“Sometimes you just don’t realize that people know you’re out there,” she said. “I was surprised, but very honored.”
The organization offers financial assistance and education to active duty and retired members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, their family and survivors.
“Our main goal is financial education so people can be their own recourse, but a lot of the time it’s paired with no-interest loans,” she said.
The most popular service the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provides is no-interest loans, making up an estimated 70 percent of the organization’s transactions. Clients are allowed to take out loans of up to $500 quickly and easily. Higher amounts require more time and paperwork.
Usually these loans are given in emergency situations including car repairs, unexpected travel and other unplanned-for expenses, Dexheimer said.
“It takes 15 minutes or less and they can get five of those loans in their career,” she said. “It gets them, gets them out and gets them what they need to get back to work.”
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Dexheimer, who has been with the organization since 2006, said that the biggest change in operation came when the NMCRS implemented the no-questions-asked policy for loans $500 and under.
“The NMCRS is really good about changing their services based on what the needs of the sailors are,” she said.
The process once took nearly three hours of interviews and paperwork and now takes just minutes, allowing sailors to spend more time with family or to get back to their post.
“That was a huge change in what we do,” she said.
The organization also offers monthly baby budgeting classes for families that are expected or who have newborns. In addition to the education presented in the class itself, attendees of the workshop receive a $25 gift card and a hand-crocheted blanket.
In addition to the organization’s headquarters, located on the Naval Air Station Lemoore base at 822 Hancock Ave., the organization also runs a thrift store, located at 860 Franklin Ave.
From March through May of each year, sailors and service people raise funds for the organization, last year bringing in around $200,000 through various fundraising techniques.
The organization has only two paid employees, but has a team of 77 volunteers, the vast majority of whom are spouses of those enlisted.
Last year, the organization served nearly 900 clients, providing $583,000 in loans and grants.