As a native of Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia, NMCRS Lemoore Director Jeanes Cunningham particularly enjoys seeing volunteers and clients from different cultures, and multicultural families who come through the doors of her office. “Everyone works together to better understand each other and also learn how each other’s differences add to the overall mission of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society,” she said. “I try to relate to each person differently based upon personality and work styles. We all come from different backgrounds and we all respond in our own way. This diversity makes me feel like I’m in the right place to make a contribution to NMCRS.”
Jeanes earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, while also working in restaurants. Unexpectedly, this led her on a new career path. “I started doing bookkeeping for one of the restaurants, then I worked as a bookkeeper for the USO in Guam.” Jeanes met her husband, now retired from the Navy, when he was stationed in Guam. They moved back to the mainland and were stationed at several bases, including Naval Air Station Lemoore from 1997 through 1999, then again in 2006 until her husband retired from the Navy in 2010. “I’m from an island and he’s from the country. This is where we chose to remain after retirement while the kids finished high school.”
A long-time volunteer for her children’s schools, once they were older Jeanes branched out and found the Society. Jeanes started volunteering as a caseworker with the Society in 2007, to earn continuing education credits on her path to become an Accredited Financial Counselor. Once I started volunteering with NMCRS, I liked the camaraderie.” Jeanes recalled. She was hired as a relief services assistant in 2008 and became director of NMCRS Lemoore in 2013.
“I see many young clients who are financially helping their families back home,” she said. “In my culture we’re supposed to help our parents, no matter what. These young service members are sending money home, which resonates with me. I relate to that, but I have to help them understand that they have to take care of themselves first, or they may not be able to take care of anyone.”
Naval Air Station Lemoore is the master jet base on the West Coast, home to more than 6,000 service members, and is located far from any large cities. “We see lots of clients in need of financial assistance for transportation, because of the remoteness of the base,” Jeanes said.
Jeanes is thankful and proud of the NMCRS Lemoore Team. “Our team is very good,” she said. “We have different personalities and we share our cultures with each other. I try to make sure the office includes people of all ages and levels of experience. Our volunteers enjoy coming in, and we all make sure our mission is accomplished.”
“Older retiree cases stick with me the most because I know they’re on fixed incomes. They usually can’t find additional work to supplement their income. At this point in their lives they don’t have many options, especially in this agriculture-centric valley.”
Congratulations, and thank you for 10 years of dedicated service to the Society, Jeanes!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso