Tricia Clark was simply shopping for clothes and things her family needed when she saw volunteers working there needed a hand. “So I started volunteering,” she said. “I loved being around other people who wanted to help military families.” That one day as a customer in 2012 led to several years of volunteering for the Society in a variety of capacities, including thrift shop lead, client services assistant, caseworker, casework lead, and chair of volunteers. She’s loved all of it. “I love being face to face with a client, hearing their story, and seeing how the Society can help them,” Tricia explained. “I also love going out to recruit new volunteers.” Tricia volunteers three days each week at NMCRS Lemoore.
“Sometimes Sailors walk out of here and we haven’t even loaned them any money, but we’ve talked about how they could do things differently, and you can tell they’re not as stressed out as they were when they arrived,” Tricia said. “Recently, I had to deny a client’s application for a loan. She called me back a month later. She told me she was so thankful for the budget we’d prepared together. She was still struggling, but she’d been able to pay off her bills and give something extra to her kids because she better understood how to manage her money. My client was so grateful for her experience with the Society—even though she hadn’t received any money—that she spoke to her Shipmates during the Active Duty Fund Drive to encourage them to contribute.”
On some occasions, the Society provides funds to a Sailor or Marine knowing they can’t afford to pay it back. “I remember the first grant I ever gave,” Tricia recalled. “The Sailor didn’t have any means of repayment. The money was to help with his child’s medical needs. I left the room to talk to my director and I came back in and said, ‘We’re going to grant this to you.’ I remember seeing his face and he started crying. He said, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ I’ll always remember him.”
In recognition of Tricia’s dedication, in 2016 the Society presented her with an award for superior volunteer service. NMCRS President Admiral Steve Abbot said of Tricia, “Ever the engaging and patient leader, she fosters an atmosphere of cooperation and respect amongst both volunteers and staff. Mrs. Clark is a champion for each NMCRS Lemoore Volunteer, and cheerfully remains ‘on call’ to assume vacancies in the schedule. Further, she’s developed a reputation as someone who cares deeply, garnering great admiration for her devotion to clients.”
Tricia has been a military spouse for 16 years. For the past two years, her husband, ABH1 William Clark, has been dividing his time between duty in Bahrain, training in various locations, and duty in Texas, so Tricia is frequently solo parenting with her 10- and 14-year-old sons, who also volunteer for the Society once a year. “The thrift shop holds a Santa’s Workshop in December where kids can come and shop in the evening to find presents for their family members. My 10-year-old has been an elf, and my older son has helped the little kids do their shopping.”
When her husband reports for his next assignment aboard a ship this summer, the family will move back to San Diego, where Tricia plans to continue volunteering with the Society. “They know I’m coming,” she laughed. She looks forward to working with her extended NMCRS family in a new place.
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso