Gabie Telles still has the budget that a caseworker at NMCRS Bremerton created for her and her husband in 2009 when they went to the Society for help. “When we were first married there was a problem with my husband’s pay, so we went to the office and they helped us sort it out,” Gabie recalled. “That was the first time I had heard of the Society, but I didn’t realize they welcomed volunteers until my Family Readiness Officer in Twentynine Palms mentioned it to me in 2012. At that time, my daughter had started preschool and I was looking for something I could do to help our community.”
Gabie’s husband Aaron, a Marine staff sergeant, has been a fan of the Society since that day when he and Gabie got the budget. “He talks to everyone about the Society, and tells them he contributes, and he has motivated his junior Marines to contribute,” Gabie said. “He’s a huge advocate for the Society.”
When Gabie began volunteering at NMCRS Twentynine Palms, she started out as a client services assistant and had transitioned to chair of volunteers by the time she left. “I liked everything about volunteering. I finally met other spouses in a similar mental state that I was in, dealing with the demands of my husband’s job. We had a lot of similar goals and we all wanted to help others,” Gabie said. “I loved the empowerment I received as a volunteer. I was 20 at the time, and volunteering was an amazing opportunity for me to be able to get in the game and put some of my skills and knowledge to use.”
Looking back on her early days as a volunteer, Gabie recognizes how much she’s grown. “I was shy and worried about making mistakes,” she recalled. “Doing a Quick Assist Loan would panic me. But they asked me to do all these things that were outside of my comfort zone, like coordinating training for volunteers, working with the board, and with the commandant’s wife who was honorary chair of volunteers. Those responsibilities taught me about my capabilities and not to put limits on myself.”
That confidence led Gabie to apply for the relief services assistant position at Camp Pendleton North when her husband got orders there in June 2014. “I worked closely with Donna Miranda, the director there, and I was her director designee when she was out. She really pushed me to learn new things, like doing briefs, volunteer support, casework, and training—anything that needed to be done. That prepared me to be able to take a director position in the future.”
“Ray and Christy were also my mentors,” shared Gabie. “They played such a huge part in my success at NMCRS.”
From September 2017 to May 2019 Gabie served as casework lead for NMCRS Camp Lejeune. “It was interesting to learn a completely different military environment,” she said, “from West Coast to East Coast and from primarily serving infantry clients to all kinds of service members. It was a good experience to see how people do things differently in different places, but how we all bring capabilities to the Society and it comes together.”
With her experience and expertise in casework, training, client services, volunteer support, and serving as a director designee, Gabie was definitely ready to take the next step, becoming the director of NMCRS New River in June 2019.
“One of the biggest things I learned from directors I worked with was the importance of command relationships,” Gabie said. “I have an excellent relationship with our base commanding officer and other base leadership. I hope that will lead to a great collaboration during the Active Duty Fund Drive. I’ve also focused on expanding our volunteer roster and making sure our volunteers know why they’re here and feel empowered and fulfilled as volunteers.”
Her volunteers had the opportunity to make a particularly personal contribution to the Society when NMCRS New River relocated in October. “It was a challenging but fun experience,” Gabie said. “Every volunteer chimed in with suggestions. I loved it because it showed me everyone’s personality and it helped them have a different kind of impact. Our new building is nice because we have higher visibility and cell phone service. Now clients can pull up their financial information on their phones, which definitely facilitates the budgeting process.”
Because Marine Corps Air Station New River is the first air station base where Gabie has worked, she has learned a whole new flight-focused lexicon. Her knowledge of helicopters is often tested by her four-year old son. “He’s obsessed with helicopters and knows the difference between all of them when he sees them flying,” Gabie said.
Gabie’s 11-year-old daughter is as community-minded as her mom, but her focus is on animals. She’s not yet old enough to volunteer in person at the local animal shelter, so she knits tiny blankets to keep the shelter kittens warm and cozy. “She is planning to open a hot cocoa stand to raise money to buy food and litter for the kittens.”
Thank you for your dedication to the Society, Gabie!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso