Life moved fast for Sharon Zacharias after she and her husband got married. He was in flight school in Meridian, Mississippi and his commanding officer’s wife encouraged Sharon to attend a week-long training sponsored by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. “I learned a lot of good information,” Sharon recalled. “But I didn’t have the chance to volunteer because we PCS’d quickly after that.”
When her husband was stationed in Jacksonville, NC, Sharon got a job in the mortgage department at Marine Federal Credit Union, but soon became pregnant with the couple’s first child. After she gave birth to their son 22 years ago, Sharon decided she wasn’t going back to work, but she wanted to do something with her brain.
“I went to the NMCRS New River office to volunteer,” she recalled. “Almost immediately I became chair of volunteers. The director there was really good about teaching and mentoring me. I loved everything about the mission and vision of the Society.”
Eventually Sharon added casework to her portfolio of skills, while still helping to recruit and train volunteers, plan volunteer recognition ceremonies, and keep volunteer service records. After four years of volunteering at NMCRS New River, Sharon’s second child arrived and was only two weeks old when the family PCS’d to Quantico, Virginia. Sharon volunteered for a year at NMCRS Quantico, then the family PCS’d to Amarillo, Texas, where there was no base or NMCRS office.
When her husband PCS’d back to Jacksonville, North Carolina, Sharon had the opportunity to step back into her former role as chair of volunteers at NMCRS New River. Then a part-time staff position opened and she leaped at the chance to join the ranks of Society employees. “The transition to primarily doing casework was challenging, but it really prepared me for this job as director of NMCRS Ft. Worth.” Sharon became director of NMCRS Ft. Worth in 2008, after her husband retired from the Marine Corps and they settled in Ft. Worth to be near family.
“As a director, I focus a lot on volunteers because, if we have good volunteers and I train them well, then they’ll do good work,” Sharon said. “I have a really great group of volunteers and we don’t have a lot of turnover. Some of our volunteers today were here when I came in 2008. Three of our volunteers have earned 10,000-hour awards and one received the lifetime achievement award. Our office has a wide range of volunteers that include active and retired service members, spouses of service members, as well as some with no military affiliation.
“Another unique aspect about NMCRS Ft. Worth is the large number of cross-service clients we serve because our office is located on a Joint Reserve Base – in fact, our office has the record for the most cross-service cases in the Society. We’re the only military aid office that assists drilling reservists through our Reserve Assistance Pilot Program. We also see a large number of retirees. Because we serve clients from all branches of Service, our casework is very dynamic. Our volunteers receive a lot of training and I keep my door open so they can ask questions and get guidance. I try to create an environment where volunteers are empowered and know they’re really making a difference and their work is meaningful and appreciated.”
“Recently, one of our volunteers died after a long battle with cancer,” Sharon said. “He had served in the Navy and retired from a civilian career before he started volunteering with our office. His wife told me at his memorial service how he just loved to come to our office and help the clients and talk to them and help them find solutions. It was a reason for living. Not only did he make a difference in people’s lives, but the Society made a difference in his life.”
Congratulations on your 10 years of dedicated employment with the Society, Sharon!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso