NMCRS San Onofre Director Donna Miranda began volunteering with the Society in 2008, after she observed first-hand the effects of financial stress on the military members. “About a year before I found out about NMCRS, my nephew joined the Marine Corps,” she explained. “He wasn’t prepared for the financial adjustment of military life, and had a financial hardship at the beginning. Unfortunately, he wasn’t aware of the Society at that time. When I learned about it, I was so impressed by the Society and that the organization has existed since 1904! It became part of my personal mission to get involved and help both the military and civilian communities understand who we are.”
Miranda was already familiar with the benefits and struggles of military life from a childhood as a Marine Corps junior – her father retired as a Master Sergeant after 22 years of service. Her father was stationed at MCB Camp Pendleton, California when she met her future husband at Washington Jr. High in Vista, California. Donna’s husband has been a firefighter for 35 years and they have three adult daughters. “I was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years,” she explained. “I’d always volunteered in my community. Then, when I learned about NMCRS, I fell in love with its mission and vision. I wanted to give back to the Marines and Sailors in my community.”
Her affinity for planning a budget and working with numbers made volunteering as a caseworker at NMCRS Camp Pendleton a perfect fit. After a year of volunteering, Miranda was hired as the volunteer support coordinator for the office, where she worked closely with the director and chair of volunteers to recruit and train volunteers. In 2011, she was hired as deputy director and served as interim director for a short period in 2015.
When the director position became available at NMCRS San Onofre, Miranda was asked to serve as interim director in that office as well. Although she had spent her whole Society career at the main side office of Camp Pendleton, Miranda willingly traveled up to the north side of the base, and was hired as the director of NMCRS San Onofre in May 2015. Miranda now has the opportunity to focus on building relationships with commands to increase Marines’ awareness of the Society.
“When I meet with command leadership, I emphasize that we are here to help their job run smoothly. By offering education to their Marines on how to achieve financial self-sufficiency and providing financial assistance for emergency needs, we ensure that they can focus on mission readiness when they are on duty,” she explained. “The commands and I have open communication about the NMCRS assistance that goes to their units: both the dollar amount and the breakdown of what kinds of financial needs their Marines are facing. It’s important for command leaders to understand what their Marines are dealing with. Knowing the Society is there to help their Marines and their families relieves some of the stress of command and helps everyone focus on their job.”
Miranda strives to ensure that every client’s experience in her office is a positive one. “When a client comes into the office requesting assistance, they receive the same invested effort to find solutions to their needs regardless of rank,” she says. “Providing good customer service is critical. One day, that client may be the Sergeant Major who remembers his experience with the Society and then refers his or her Marines to us. If they had a negative experience with the Society when they were a young Marine, which will stay with them. Making the very best first impression is everything.”
One of her favorite duties is talking with the parents of young Marines during the Marine Combat Training graduation brief. “I love helping parents understand that they are a part of the Marine Corps family now, and that their support is critical to helping their Marines be financially successful. Often, a young Marine is tempted to buy a car once they are in the Force, and they often get enticed by sales people who prey upon their youth and inexperience on a new base far from home, and end up giving them a very high interest rate – which often doesn’t even include the high cost of insurance or registration for that shiny new car. I tell parents that, even though children are now officially Marines, they still need parental direction and guidance.”
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso