When Maureen Farrell started volunteering at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society office in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1991, she was basically a data entry clerk. “They did casework on Monday, so whoever came in on Tuesday entered the casework from Monday,” she recalled. “You could only enter 10 lines of notes about the case. Some caseworkers were really prolific so we had to summarize carefully.”

A young Navy wife with three kids at home, Maureen hadn’t used computers before and appreciated the opportunity to acquire new skills and do something useful while her husband was deployed. A few years later, Maureen’s husband received orders to Arlington, Virginia, so the family moved to nearby suburban Maryland. Maureen found a job at the NMCRS office that supports the US Naval Academy. That office falls under the auspices of NMCRS Washington Navy Yard, so Maureen reported to the director of the Navy Yard office, who provided great guidance and mentorship. “She taught me how to best help clients and how to manage the office and the volunteers. Back then, all the loan management was done in individual offices and the repayments had to be balanced monthly, so there was a huge learning curve for me. She was very helpful in getting me straight.” Maureen served not only in the Naval Academy office but also occasionally at the Naval Station and Ft. Meade offices.

Two years later her husband received orders to London, where Maureen served as a volunteer for the Society, and then as a relief services assistant. “We had some unusual cases there,” Maureen said. “We had a tuition program for spouses and we served many bases in Europe. We also got to go to Naples, Italy and Rota, Spain for training, which were great opportunities.”

Returning stateside, Maureen got a job with the parks and recreation department in Patuxent River, Maryland, where her family had PCS’d. After a year away from the Society, in 2000 she spotted an ad for the director position at NMCRS Patuxent River, and she’s held the position ever since.

“The week I took the job was just after the USS Cole (DDG-67) was bombed,” Maureen recalled. “My first case was the widow of one of the Sailors who was killed. Her husband had orders to transfer from USS Cole to NAS Patuxent River. They had just signed a contract to buy a house. That made the beginning of my career here very memorable.”

During her tenure, Maureen has seen a lot of positive changes within the Society. “When I started as a volunteer, a lot of the duties were very segregated, but now pretty much any volunteer can come in and learn to do everything in the office if they want to. Loan management is handled at headquarters, which makes things much easier for us.”

The clients, however, are still the same, she explained. Their expenses may have shifted over the years. “Back in the day we saw requests for help with giant telephone bills when people were deployed. We rarely see that anymore. But transportation is much more expensive these days—people’s cars and their moving expenses.”

“There are lots of families we’ve helped who always make me feel good about our mission,” Maureen said. “At this point I’ve seen a lot of Sailors and Marines leave and come back again, which makes me feel really old at times,” she laughed. “But I always enjoy working with our volunteers. They have great talents that they’re happy to share. I’ve learned things from all of them. I have also enjoyed the command support at Patuxent River. Our military leaders have been wonderful.”

While Maureen sees her NMCRS community as an extended family within the military family, her own immediate family has also participated in life at the Society. “My kids have all done volunteer service in the office. My husband is a volunteer too. He comes into the office and sets things up and fixes things. If I bring projects home from the office, they would all help me with them. This year my husband is running the Marine Corps Marathon on the NMCRS team. He’s the only one in our family who hasn’t run a marathon yet, so we’re all looking forward to that.”

 

By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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