After she retired from her career as a lawyer in 2007, Janette Thompson wanted to volunteer, but not doing legal services work. She spent a couple days a week giving her time to different organizations for several months, but she wasn’t satisfied with how volunteers were trained to interact with clients. Thompson wanted a more direct and meaningful experience. Soon after the tragic 2009 shooting at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, Thompson asked a friend whose husband was stationed at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth for suggestions about where she might volunteer. He connected Thompson with NMCRS Fort Worth Director Sharon Zacharias. “I knew nothing about the military,” Thompson explained. “My dad had been in the Navy during the Second World War for four years, but he never talked about it. I thought this is something I can learn how to do. It doesn’t involve practicing law but it does involve helping people.”
Thompson began as a client services assistant and then Zacharias suggested she train to do casework. “I was happy it was something new to learn,” Thompson said. “And I appreciated the way volunteers were managed.” Now she volunteers every Tuesday.
“Everyone wants to be financially solvent. Nobody wants to walk in here,” she said. “I hope that I can show them one little thing that will make them say ‘YES, here’s something I can do to change.’ You’re helping them but not giving anything away. You help them get their finances in order so their life is better.”
Because so many clients at NMCRS Fort Worth are reservists, they cannot repay NCMRS loans as allotments from their military paychecks—repayment must come straight from their bank accounts. Thompson came up with a way to make the process easier for clients. “Sharon asked me to think of what we can do to remind them that a week from now when they get their paycheck that a certain amount needs to come out to pay their Society loan.”
Now reserve clients receive weekly emails detailing how much money should come out of their bank accounts each week until the loan is repaid. The email also includes contact information for Thompson, so if the client has questions, would like to repay the loan sooner, or does not have funds to cover the repayment amount, he or she can let her know right away.
In his recent commendation to Thompson for superior volunteer service, NMCRS President, retired Admiral Steve Abbot reported that Thompson’s email notification system has benefited both clients and the Society and reduced the number of non-sufficient funds transactions.
Thompson also appreciates the ability to make life easier for clients facing a crisis. “When people come in and need emergency relief in an instant, when they have to get home for a funeral or sick family member, it’s nice that we can quickly just waive completing a budget, call American Express, and work it all out for them. I’m glad we’re here to do that for them because they’re just in a frenzy.”