A pair of tennis shoes, a warm-up jacket, a book about Navy wives, and a duffel bag brought Brenda Norwood into the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society office in Millington, Tennessee for the first time in 2009. “I had entered a drawing and I actually won,” she recalled. “So my friend and I went to the office to pick up my prize. The Society office was right down the hall from Fleet and Family Services office, but I’d never been to the Society office and I didn’t know anything about it. Everyone was so friendly, I decided to start volunteering!”

Brenda married her husband in 1995, toward the end of his Navy career. “He wanted to go into the civilian world, but I wanted to be part of the military community,” she explained. “I grew up traveling a lot because my dad was a minister, so I liked being around people who traveled.”

Brenda became a caseworker at NMCRS Millington in 2010 and volunteered for a couple years before going back to work as a substitute teacher at her children’s school. Brenda and her husband spent many hours volunteering for school activities as well. After several years of teaching and seeing her kids off to college, Brenda decided she was ready for a change. “I thought, ‘I’ve spent my life raising my girls and now it’s time for me to do something I want to do.’”

That same friend who accompanied Brenda to pick up her raffle prize, and who volunteered with her at NMCRS Millington, told Brenda about the opening for the director position and encouraged her to apply. “And here I am!” Brenda laughed.

Because the Society office is next to a conference room in a building on the base, conference attendees often stop by the Society, especially the uniform locker. But Brenda still plans to devote a lot of energy to getting the word out about the Society and what it offers. “We give a lot of briefings and people still do not know about us, but I understand that when you’re getting so much information at once you sometimes tune things out. I really want people to feel comfortable coming in our office, knowing we’re not going to judge them. We’re here to educate and help them.”

Brenda is looking forward to expanding the reach of the NMCRS Millington office and providing services to more service members. “I have a good relationship with the commander on base and I’m getting a lot of support,” she explained. “I enjoy my volunteers and I love my job!”

 

Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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