By Clark Pierce
Editor

This year's Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) fund-raising drive began March 5 with an organizational kickoff at the River Cove Catering and Conference Center on board NAS Jacksonville.

The annual fund drive generates donations to benefit the local NMCRS - an organization that assists hundreds of Sailors, Marines and their families each month. 

"By donating to NMCRS, service members are taking care of their own," said Commander, Navy Region Southeast Rear Adm. Rick Williamson, who urged commanding officers, XOs and senior enlisted leaders of installation and tenant commands to respond quickly and generously to the fund drive. 

"As a young division officer, I learned of the power that NMCRS can bring to bear on problems involving finances and family dynamics. 

"Fast forward 20 years and I'm commanding officer of a frigate with an average crew age of 22 years - and most of the same problems. Who do they turn to for guidance? That's right, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. They're a force multiplier that can remove some burdens from the shoulders of commanding officers. Like everyone here today, including my wife, Robin, I'm a believer in NMCRS. Thank you for your service." 

"This fund drive will succeed because of your Sailor-to-Sailor efforts," said NAS Jax NMCRS Director Monika Woods.

"We cannot operate without our dedicated volunteers who step up at each command to lead this fund drive. To support you, we have more than a dozen cheerleaders at our NMCRS office in Building 13."

"NMCRS is famous for its interest-free Quick Assist Loans. And when our clients pay it back - the money is turned around and used by another person in need,'' added Woods. ''So it really is service members taking care of service members."

NAS Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Roy Undersander attended the kickoff with his wife, Pam, who, along with Robin Williamson, is an NMCRS honorary chairman of volunteers, .

He told those in attendance, "Fund drives have been challenging this past year. The spirit of giving has been dampened by furloughs and the government sequester. However, our Sailors have enjoyed a stable income throughout all of it. Please remember that NMCRS is really about Sailors helping Sailors - so join me to revitalize that spirit of giving for this important fund drive."

Lt. Fred Pacifico, a submariner assigned to the CPRW-11 Weapons School, is serving his second year as the NMCRS fund drive coordinator. "When we talk numbers for Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, our fundraising goal is at least $2 per person, per month, for each active duty Sailor and Marine in your command."

He explained that last year (2013), the fund drive brought in just over $309,000 - representing 130 percent of the goal. 

"One of the reasons I wanted to come back and lead the campaign again was that the Southeast Region is so large and there's so much to learn. With hindsight, I'm eager to make the fund drive bigger as well as better."

Pacifico has a history of supporting NMCRS. He's volunteered as a caseworker since 1999. 

"I believe in the program and I want it to succeed. Most young enlisted survive from paycheck to paycheck and are living on their own for the first time. When they need some emergency financial help to get home for events such as a funeral, their caseworker can cut them a check to cover expenses. When they return to base, their NMCRS caseworker works with them to create a budget that will pay back the interest-free loan," said Pacifico.

Each command on base is assigned a POC to ensure 100 percent contact is made during the drive. Armed with allotment forms, these key persons will visit with as many Sailors and Marines as possible to ensure everyone has an opportunity to donate to the NMCRS.

Founded in 1904, the NMCRS is a private, non-profit, charitable organization. It is sponsored by the Department of the Navy and operates nearly 241 offices ashore and afloat at Navy and Marine Corps bases throughout the world.

During the 109 years the NMCRS has been operating, they have helped millions of people through loans and grants. 

NMCRS also offers other forms of assistance such as providing layettes or ''junior sea bags'' to new family members, a visiting nurse program to help new mothers, elderly individuals and anyone who needs a little extra help, and thrift shops offering low-cost clothing and household items.

The 2014 fund drive runs through mid-May. Numerous fundraising events such as golf tournaments, car washes, bake sales and special raffles are planned throughout the next several weeks. 

Volunteers are always needed at the society in a variety of different functions. Whether, it's answering the phone, helping clients or teaching classes, the society welcomes volunteers.

Lt. Pacifico can be reached at 542-0730 or Alfred.a.pacifico@navy.mil.

For more info, see your command NMCRS fund drive POC, or contact the NAS Jax NMCRS Office at 542-3515 or www.nmcrsfunddrive.org/jacksonville.