Nearly 10 years before working for the Society, Christina’s relationship with NMCRS began – much the same as our clients’. She and her husband were transferred from Submarine School, Groton, CT to Naval Station Norfolk, VA and, on Black Friday, found themselves short of funds for an additional housing deposit which was, at that time, required from enlisted service members. The Navy Housing Center called NMCRS and Mr. Red Trader was assigned as the newly-married couple’s caseworker. Christine says, “During our conversation with Red, the more questions he asked, the more intrigued I became with the valuable resources available to service members through NMCRS.”
With that early introduction to NMCRS, when Christina’s spouse was once again stationed in Norfolk, in 1990, Christina completed a one week information course about the Society. She remembers, “Childcare was provided and my 2 youngest children enjoyed the interaction with other children and I loved the adult interaction! When I learned NMCRS would reimburse me for childcare expenses I incurred while volunteering, I was hooked. I began as a receptionist one day a week, but soon took on an additional day. After six months, I started doing casework and found my true passion in helping financially stressed service members and their families.”
Recalling how she stepped into her first job at NMCRS, Christina states, “Well, remember Red Trader who provided assistance to my husband and me when we were newlyweds? Well, it turns out he was more accurately Colonel Red Trader, USMC (Ret.), Executive Director, NMCRS Hampton Roads and was the chair of my hiring board when I applied for an Office Assistant III position.” The job involved recruiting, training and maintaining a volunteer force, and handling reporting duties for the Little Creek Office which was then a branch of the NMCRS Hampton Roads Auxiliary. “Gratefully, I was hired, and through the years, the office and I have grown together. My hope is that my leadership has not only had a positive impact on what is now the NMCRS Little Creek office, but more importantly on each life our office has directly or indirectly impacted.”
In Christina’s tenure at the helm of NMCRS Little Creek helm, more than 50,000 service members have been assisted. There are a few cases which stand out and which highlight the ability NMCRS employees and volunteers have to positively change lives. She remembers, “One of my first cases was a mid-career service member whose wife required a month of care at a distant medical facility. The couple had two young children, one of whom was in school. NMCRS provided funds for the service member’s mother to come to care for the children and assistance for the couple’s travel, lodging and incidental expenses during the extended hospital stay. Partnering with the local military community also played a critical role and by working with the medical facility’s chaplain, we were able to negotiate lodging for the couple at $25 per night.”
Still reflecting Christina adds, “Every day we say ‘Yes’ to a client is a good day. However, I’ve learned that sometimes saying ‘No’ is the best thing for that service member- although they may not realize it at the time.” Perhaps surprisingly, Christina has had several clients make a point to return and thank her for saying “no.”
Day in and day out, Christina’s favorite part of her job is the fact that no day is routine. “We’re always evolving, learning about new resources while encountering unique and challenging situations. No two financial and communication strategies are ever the same.”
Championing the role of the 427 volunteers she has worked with over 25 years, Christina believes “volunteers are the life blood of the organization. Robynn Flowers (RSA, NMCRS Little Creek) and I guide and train consistently so that Monday volunteers apply the same policy and follow the same procedures as Friday volunteers. Ultimately, our success depends on strong volunteer leadership and dedicated volunteers who honor their time commitment.”
Asked to look into her crystal ball after these first 25 years, Christina muses “I pray that I remain relevant, in good health and can continue my work with the Society for many more years.” She predicts that the next decade will offer many more online opportunities for the Society to streamline the casework process, and that online forms will be available so our clients can complete and uploaded their information prior to coming into our office, and the use of direct deposit for the Society’s financial assistance will become the norm.
Congratulations Christina, on celebrating 25 years with the Society!
By Susan Tyler