Judy Robison has done just about everything in the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society office at Cherry Point, North Carolina. She started volunteering in 1981 when her sons were in high school. In 1985, Judy was hired as a Relief Services Assistant (then known as a Staff Assistant), a position she held for 16 years before becoming director of the office. After serving as director for two years, Judy retired and took two years off—but she couldn’t stay away. “I wholeheartedly believe in what the Society does. I missed it, and they needed volunteers,” she recalled. So, in 2005 she returned to NMCRS Cherry Point as a volunteer.
In 2018 she received an NMCRS Presidential Certificate of Commendation for her steadfast service, and in 2019 she was recognized by local news channel WNCT-9 as a Southern Star (https://www.wnct.com/southern-stars/judy-robison-of-havelock-is-a-southern-star/).
Former director of NMCRS Cherry Point Julie Spangenberger said that even when Judy’s house flooded during Hurricane Florence, Judy still came into the office to volunteer. “She has completed more than 9,000 hours as a volunteer and is one of our most seasoned caseworkers,” Julie said. “Judy is always upbeat and positive and has a smile on her face.
Anytime she comes into the office, it’s a better day for everyone.”
Before becoming indispensable to NMCRS Cherry Point, Judy volunteered in the Society’s Norfolk office when her husband was stationed there. She served as a receptionist and helped with Budget for Baby (then known as the layette program) and with records. “Back then we didn’t have computers,” she said, “so we had to maintain paper records on everything.”
What’s kept Judy faithful to the Society all these years is the people. “You meet so many different people,” she said. “I’ve worked with some amazing people. My first director I worked with at Cherry Point—Norman DeRossett—was a retired Marine who was my mentor. I absorbed everything I could from that man. He knew and taught me so much about the Society and the military. To this day he’s my favorite person. Not only do I love the volunteers and employees, but also all the military people who come through the door. You get talking to them and find that someone was from your hometown. You get close to these people.”
Judy still remembers a case she worked on in the mid-eighties where she helped a couple who had a premature baby. “It impacted how I handled cases after that. As a caseworker, you learn to be very compassionate, yet you have to do what’s within Society policy. Currently, I am the resource coordinator for our office. I have two huge volumes of resources that I rely on and all caseworkers rely on. It’s important for us to have the knowledge to help people and be able to refer them to other organizations if we can’t directly help them through the Society.”
In addition to her paper resources, Judy appreciates the value of the internet. “Computers are wonderful. They allow access to anything you need—any information or the people at headquarters,” she said. “It just takes a click of the mouse to find the answer to your question or the person who can answer that question for you. We used to have rows and rows of file cabinets with paper files because we had to write everything down. Computers have streamlined it so we’re able to help the client faster. For emergency leave, all we have to do is get into the computer, make flight reservations or calculate POV travel, and issue a check and the client can be out of here in minutes instead of an hour.”
“I’m 76 and volunteering with the Society keeps my mind active and keeps me learning something new all the time,” Judy said. “I work two full days a week. Every once in a while, I tell my husband I need to cut back. He says, ‘Oh no you don’t, you need to keep going!’ He knows how much it means to me. I’m very proud to be a Marine wife. My husband served his country 20 years and I’m proud of that.” Judy and her husband have two sons, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
“My time here is important to me,” Judy said. “Our Marines and Sailors need help. If someone sits down with them to do a budget and shows them how to improve things and it gets through to them, it’s all worthwhile. It makes my day to be able to help them.”
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso