Dana Ulmer has taught preschool and Pilates, worked with first-generation American high school students and adults with mental illness, and she’s refereed soccer matches. Now she can add NMCRS HQ caseworker to her credentials, since starting her job at NMCRS headquarters in August. Her master’s degree in social work is invaluable when doing casework, Ulmer said. “You use a lot of social work skills as a caseworker,” she said.
A Navy spouse for 24 years, Ulmer wasn’t aware of the Society during her family’s multiple tours in Virginia and California, or in Gaeta, Italy—where she said they ate the best food of anywhere they’ve lived. When they PCSed from San Diego to Washington, DC in 2013, Ulmer met NMCRS Washington Navy Yard Director, Melodie Weddle, who persuaded Ulmer to volunteer in her office. “I started as an apprentice caseworker and continued to progress up through level III, as well as teaching Budget for Baby workshops at the Washington Navy Yard and Ft. Mead.”
She’s transitioned from field-level casework to headquarters casework, and says she’s learned a lot in just a few months. “One thing I’ve found more challenging about working at headquarters is you don’t have the client sitting right there where you can quickly turn and ask them questions,” Ulmer explained. “But there are some incredible caseworkers in the field offices who know what they’re doing and provide nice, concise case notes with all the information you can possibly want. We’re all here because we want to be and we enjoy doing what we do.”
Ulmer tries to help spread the word about the Society and its services. “It took me about 20 years to really have an understanding of what the Society was. We never lived on base and in our experience, living in the DC metro area is different than anywhere else we’ve ever lived.”
Headquarters caseworkers deal with exceptional NMCRS cases, American Red Cross cases, and those from our sister organizations (Army Emergency Relief and Air Force Aid Society), “it’s never dull,” Ulmer said. Although each caseworker is assigned to certain types of cases each day, “if things get heavy, we’ll help each other out. It’s nice that you’re never alone working a case. There’s always somebody who is willing to sit down and discuss it with you and think through how you’re serving the client setting them up for future success and making sure you’re making the best use of the Society’s funds.”
Welcome to NMCRS HQ, Dana!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso