Being at the right place at the right time, combined with an MBA, helped Autumn Crouser land the job as director of NMCRS Charleston, just as this office was transitioning from being a local service office to a full service office this past summer. When Crouser, a military spouse for six years, was hired as the Relief Services Assistant in the Charleston office in the spring, she was told that the job might expand to a directorship with the expansion of the office. “We were already offering all the programs and services the Society provides,” Crouser explained. “Now, we’re looking to grow the number of clients our office supports. I want to provide the continuity and leadership that can help move our office in the right direction.”
Specifically, Crouser plans to train all of her volunteers, both new and experienced, on the new learning management system recently unveiled at the NMCRS international conference, to ensure that everyone in the office is on the same page in terms of Society policies. She also wants to use all of the Society’s technological tools to help modernize the daily operations of her office.
Crouser’s career path has prepared her well for the diverse responsibilities of an NMCRS field office director. She’s worked as a business analyst for a medical device company and a hospital, and consulted with companies on business development, organizational change, strategy, and marketing. She’s always volunteered with community organizations, including most recently at the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital. “I’ve always wanted to work for a nonprofit,” she said, and especially appreciates the Society’s emphasis on volunteer development. “Managing volunteers is similar to managing employees, but we are much more flexible, because each person can bring something different to the table. We like to look for what a volunteer can do for the Society and how we can help them. We certainly could not fulfill our mission without the support of our volunteers. They are crucial to our success.”
NMCRS clients in Charleston include active duty Sailors and Marines as well as a significant population of retirees and widows. “At least half of our clients are retirees,” Crouser said. “They generally need help with rent and basic living expenses. My first week here we had an unusual dental work case when a retired chief’s wife and two daughters were facing serious medical issues that required extensive dental work not covered by Tricare. I was amazed at how quickly the Relief Committee [at NMCRS headquarters which reviews exceptional cases from field offices] worked to help us provide that assistance.”
“Recently we worked with a retired Chief who was unable to pay her rent, utilities, car payment, and insurance, and needed assistance with food and gas as well. Her situation stemmed from a job loss and illness. After the case, she wrote to me, ‘Thank you so much for your time and effort. You went above and beyond for someone you don’t know. I arrived to you like a tornado, but when you spoke the words, ‘I know we can help you,’ it calmed my storm.’”
As for active duty clients, the Charleston office sees the usual range of requests for financial assistance, including many for help with utility bills and car repair. “We’re really trying to educate service members as they come in,” Crouser said. “We don’t want to just put a Band-Aid on the situation. We want Sailors and Marines to be mission ready, and the best way to do that is if they’re not worried about their finances.”
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso