Barb Sheffer, newly married in 1988, will be forever grateful to the volunteers at the Newport, Rhode Island NMCRS office who took her under their wings and taught her the ropes. “I grew up in the Louisiana bayou and worked as an accountant in New York City. The military lifestyle was a foreign concept,” she recalled. “Those wonderful volunteers helped me learn a new language full of acronyms and understand my role as a Navy spouse.”
After 15 years, Sheffer, who had served in nearly every volunteer role the Society offered while moving around the country with her Navy husband and raising their son, was ready for full-time employment. “Although I’d put my working career on hold, I’d been volunteering for the Society. My professional skills were sharp and it was an easy transition.”
Today, Barb Sheffer is the #1 recruiter, cheerleader, and mentor for more than 4,000 Society volunteers. She understands and advocates for the diverse skills, experience, energy, and value every volunteer brings to the Society.
“I started as a Society volunteer. I’ve walked that road,” Sheffer said. “The volunteer opportunities the Society provides are important. I benefitted, both personally and professionally, from my service as a Society volunteer. I gained leadership and mentoring skills. My first volunteer role was coordinating the food locker in Newport, where I learned a lot about the military lifestyle and to deal with all kinds of people. My communication skills also got a lot better!”
She also learned to listen – a skill she credits to volunteering as a Society caseworker. “When dealing with people, you have to listen to them so you can find the best solution for them,” she explained “Now, as the Society’s Director of Volunteer Support, I still have to listen. I listen to what volunteers want to do and match them with the right position. I listen to staff members who oversee our volunteer force and provide suggestions, ideas, and encouragement.”
“Today, there are Society volunteers who are military spouses, some are not. Some are retirees and some are active duty service members assigned to Navy ships who volunteer as NMCRS representatives. Our volunteers are knitters, thrift shop workers, caseworkers, budget-for-baby workshop instructors, and others serve in volunteer leadership positions and as mentors. It’s that variety of duties and jobs which allows volunteers to serve in the role that best fits their skills and the Society’s needs. Every volunteer role is hands on and, since 94 percent of the Society’s workforce are volunteers, they must be well trained and empowered to fulfill the Society’s mission of providing financial assistance and education to Sailors, Marines and their families.”
“Every Society volunteer is important, whether they serve a couple of hours or a lifetime,” Sheffer said. “We love our volunteers – they are the heart and soul of the Society and their service is appreciated each and every day. I hope everyone finds a way to say ‘thank you’ to a volunteer this week!”
National Volunteer Week is celebrated around the country. As part of our celebration, we will recognize a select group of Society volunteers who have performed above and beyond over a 10-year period or longer. Most of them have also served in more than one NMCRS office. These are our Lifetime Achievement recipients. Join us as we share their stories here this week.