Noticing her husband’s monthly donation to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society on his pay stub was how Taylor Carraway first learned about the Society. The first time she visited a Society office was in 2011 in Pensacola when she was pregnant with her first child and took advantage of the Budget for Baby® class offered at NMCRS Pensacola.
“I had been a babysitter when I was younger, so I knew about diapers and wipes and that stuff,” she recalled. “What surprised me the most was that I never thought about starting a college savings plan or how to get more life insurance or writing a will. These were things I never had to worry about, that my parents just did. I was just focused on what type of stroller to get. The class was incredibly beneficial.”
After her daughter was born in Pensacola and Taylor’s husband graduated from flight school, the family PCSed to Coronado, California. Nine months later, they PCSed again, this time to Natsugi, Japan, where they had two more children over the next three and a half years.
In 2016, the family returned Stateside to Fallon, Nevada, where a friend told Taylor about her own experience volunteering for the Society. “It seemed like something I might be interested in, so I went in to talk with the director at the time and started volunteering once a week for a couple hours. I did all the training and started learning the ropes.”
At first Taylor helped administer Quick Assist Loans, but remembered her own positive experience in the Budget for Baby class and shifted her focus there. “We offer the B4B classes quarterly, and I’m always getting feedback from our participants to improve the class.” Taylor is also working with a Society-wide committee that is examining a variety of ways to enhance the Budget for Baby experience for clients. “We are hoping to change the curriculum so participants do a little more work beforehand to get more out of the workshop,” she explained. “If they know more about their financial situation coming in, we can help them understand what they need to do to prepare for the baby. We would encourage them to sit down with a caseworker to get a better picture of how their finances look and what their options are.”
Taylor hopes her office can register more couples for the class. “We tend to get young active duty Sailors coming to class. I know they’re encouraged by their commands to participate.”
The dads-to-be are often surprised by the sheer number of supplies required by babies, not to mention the cost. For example, “they don’t realize how expensive formula is, or how many diapers you might need, or that you might need multiple car seats,” Taylor said. “Our commissary doesn’t have a lot of formula options, so we talk about what’s available at Walmart and Safeway. When we lived in Japan, they had every type of formula on base because formula wasn’t sold in town. We always got well-priced diapers and formula on base, but that’s not the case here. The service members realize the amount of planning and thought that goes into getting ready for a baby. Budget for Baby really helps them prepare.”
Typical Budget for Baby classes at NMCRS Fallon include five to ten families. “We always follow up with families who sign up but aren’t able to make it to class to do a one-on-one class or budget with them.” Taylor and her colleagues work closely with the Fleet and Family office on base to connect expectant families with resources. “We stick with budgeting, and Fleet and Family helps with baby gear and specific baby needs.” NMCRS also provides families with information about new parents groups, local food banks, and agencies that offer nutrition programs such as WIC. “I tell people to check in with these places and encourage them to make appointments early just in case.”
Families also leave class with baby’s first sea bag—an NMCRS tote bag filled with a handmade baby blanket, a $25 Visa gift card, and handy accessories such as clip-on hand sanitizer bottles for the baby’s diaper bag, post-it notes and pens, and more. “Our office even has little outlet covers with the Society’s logo on them,” Taylor said.
While most of her B4B students are future fathers, Taylor does see some active duty moms. “They are already aware of needing a family care plan, and by the time they come to class they’ve already spoken with the base child development center to make sure they will have child care. Moms tend to be organized and know what they need to get done and they realize they’ll be going back to work at some point after the baby is born.”
Taylor’s own children are now ages three, five, and seven, and her husband is deployed, so she does most of her preparation for the B4B classes from home after the kids are in bed. “I go to the office whenever I can,” she said. “[NMCRS Fallon Director] Jeni Gilmore is great to bounce ideas off, and the volunteers are wonderful.” Taylor is doing her part to make sure the next generation of sea service families are ready for whatever comes.
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso