By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
As a seasoned professional in the luxury hospitality industry, Kathryn Dennis knew all about how to help people. “It was a very exciting industry with terrific co-workers and interesting guests. But you work 80 hours a week with little to no emotional reward. In the end I didn’t know what it was all for.”
After marrying into the Navy and moving to Sasebo, Japan, Dennis switched gears completely. “I needed to do something, and the staff at the Fleet and Family Support Center suggested volunteering with the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. I didn’t even know what the Society did, but I walked in and said, ‘I need to volunteer.’ Four weeks later, the NMCRS Sasebo director put in her notice that she was leaving. I decided to apply.” Dennis was named interim director for six months, and hired as director in August 2012. “With the Society, you’re helping people who really need it and making a difference in someone else’s life. There is no greater reward in the workplace.”
Dennis quickly came to love the supportive culture of the Society. “I learned a lot about the Navy from other volunteers and staff members, and I received a lot of support from NMCRS headquarters and our area trainer,” Dennis said. “I would send them an email and get a response in five minutes even if it was midnight in the US.”
One of Dennis’ most significant accomplishments during her tenure at Sasebo was establishing three volunteer visiting nurse positions in that office. “Overseas, it’s all volunteer nurses, unless the base requests a paid employee,” she explained. Because local laws in many countries prohibit non-residents from working in nursing positions without additional licensing, or reserve nursing jobs for nationals, American nurses living overseas with military spouses often volunteer to keep their skills and knowledge current.
After five years in Japan, Dennis’ family PCSd to Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, and in July, Dennis became director of NMCRS Newport. “This is a very different type of base from Naval Base Sasebo, so there are different problems,” Dennis explained. This office operates a thrift shop, provides assistance primarily to newly commissioned officers, reservists and retirees deals with different kinds of military pay issues, and there are Marine as well as Sailors stationed here.
“We’ve been working on building up a volunteer base and promoting our services to every command,” Dennis said. “They know we are here, our door is always open and we want to help Sailors and Marines in any we can.”