MCRD/ERR PARRIS, ISLAND, S.C. -- In December 2002, two Marines were traveling more than 900 miles to spend Christmas with their friends and family.
Almost 200 miles into the trip, the engine of the vehicle they were in stopped, leaving them stranded on the highway.
They eventually contacted a tow truck from a small town in South Carolina to transport the vehicle to the nearest mechanic who said he would need more than $1,000 to replace the engine, and could have the work done a week later.
On top of the cost for repair, the Marines had to rent a vehicle to continue their trip - coming out of pocket more than $1,400.
These expenses caused a great deal of financial hardship, as car payments, rent and utility bills were also due.
Upon their return, the Marines contacted the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society for help.
The Society took a look at the Marines' finances and performed a budget analysis and eventually gave the Marines a check to pay for the engine repairs.
In return, the Marines paid almost $50 a payday until the "small loan" was repaid, interest free.
For more than 100 years, the NMCRS has been helping Marines, sailors and their families through troubling times such as this through financial, educational, and other assistance.
"The Society is probably best known for the interest-free loans and grants it provides to eligible recipients when in need," said Ron Grindle, director of the Depot NMCRS office and retired Marine.
"Not including the scholarship assistance provided to many families, the Parris Island office itself has provided almost $213,000 in assistance to 320 sailors, Marines and their families last year ... including retirees," he added.
Those numbers don't include the non-financial assistance that was provided. Many Society offices, depending on location, have food lockers, thrift shops, visiting nurses, and give budgeting classes (a "Junior Sea Bag" is provided for attending) to those families expecting a baby.
Although sponsored by the Department of the Navy, the Society receives no funding from the government. The work of the Society is supported by an annual fund drive conducted by the Navy and Marine Corps under the auspices of the Secretary of the Navy.
"The goal of each fund drive is two fold," said Grindle. "First, we want to gain maximum awareness. The Society wants all eligible personnel to know what we can do for them.
"Second, raise those funds needed to sustain the Society. The Tri-Command goal this year was to receive an average yearly donation of $36 per person ... a $3 monthly allotment."
According to Grindle, this year's fund drive has had mixed results.
Naval Hospital Beaufort has reach 96 percent of its goal, which is more than
$12,000, while other units have had little participation.
The Society is not only seeking support through monetary donations.
More than 3,000 trained volunteers, both ashore and aboard ships, accomplish the major portion of the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society's work.
The Society enjoys an active partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps and benefits extensively from the active involvement of the command structure at the bases where the Society maintains a presence.
"The key to success any office enjoys depends on the volunteer support available," said Grindle. "Society offices are always on the lookout for 'special' individuals who wish to share their experience and knowledge, and have a desire to help others."
All volunteers are trained in the area they agree to work in and have the opportunity to help people in need, develop new skills and improve their existing talents. They are also reimbursed for transportation and child care expenses for the few hours a week they volunteer.
"We just ask that you support however and whenever you can," said Grindle. "Worldwide, more than 40,000 Marines, sailors and their families, whether active duty or retired, have benefited from the generosity of those that have supported the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society."
For more information on supporting the NMCRS, contact the Parris Island office at 228-3512, or on the Web at www.nmcrs.org.