As ombudsman for her husband’s command—a naval construction battalion—Alice Huffman helped a Navy spouse whose husband was deployed get financial assistance from the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society office in Gulfport, Mississippi. “I saw what the Society could do for people,” she recalled. “That made a lasting impact on me.”
Alice was employed at a credit union on base when she heard about an opening for an office assistant position at NMCRS Gulfport. She applied and got the job in 1997. Alice, and then-Director Chuck Ingram, were the only employees in the office.
“I oversaw a lot of the basic office operations and the administrative side of things,” Alice said. “Chuck continued to be the face of the Society in the community, developing relationships with the command and supporting the active duty fund drive. I was supporting volunteers, performing casework, and learning along the way. As time went on, Chuck began to delegate more responsibility to me.” As the Society made changes at the national and regional level, in 2000, NMCRS Gulfport was able to hire an additional employee. Alice was promoted from office assistant to office manager with increased responsibilities and opportunities.
When Chuck retired in 2006, Alice applied to be the director and was selected. “Chuck was a great mentor,” she said. “We’d been through a lot together, including Hurricane Katrina, and he taught me a lot about serving clients.”
At a recent base leadership meeting, Alice was presented with a 20-year pin to celebrate her tenure at NMCRS Gulfport, and reflected on her leadership philosophy. “Being a leader is like being a pitcher on a baseball team. You can throw strikes – but you’re not always going to do that. Sometimes you throw a ball and it’s going to get hit. You and the rest of the team have to field the ball. If you’re a good team and work together, you’re going to do that expertly. I’ve been lucky enough to have a really good team. We’ve flubbed stuff, but we’ve rallied back around and had good innings together. Our team includes volunteers, employees, commanding officers, command master chiefs, the MWR folks, Fleet and Family Services employees, and everyone who partners with us to support Seabees and Marines.”
The Society was originally established to aid the survivors of service members—the widows and orphans, Alice explained, and still does today. “About 10 years ago our office had a military spouse come in because her active duty husband died unexpectedly. She had a seven-year-old and 11-year-old sons, and was battling a serious medical condition herself. We helped them make it through financially while they were waiting for her husband’s insurance policy check to come. A decade later, her youngest son is 17 and came back to our office to tell us his mom had died and that his 21-year-old brother was going to become his guardian. We helped them make funeral arrangements for their mom.”
Alice has often seen Society volunteers and employees go above and beyond to help clients. “We had a family that had just PCS’d to the area. It was December 23 and we were getting ready to close the office for the holiday. We immediately provided them assistance for food and gas. We also called Toys for Tots and got them some Christmas presents for their kids. They asked if we provided free Christmas trees, but we didn’t and they didn’t think they could afford one. We looked at the corner of our office and saw our fully decorated Christmas tree. We loaded it into their van.”
Congratulations on 20 years with the Society, Alice, and thank you for your hard work!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso