Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 14 years. She currently serves as on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network.
Written by Shelley Kimball
I think of nonprofits as a safety net for the military community. They come through so often with support and assistance when our families need it.
Part of my work with the Military Family Advisory Network was to conduct a survey to best understand where military families get their best outside support. Nonprofits rose to the top. One of our survey findings showed that, no matter the service branch, military families favored the help provided by outside agencies when crises strike.
The Coast Guard participants said, and this was also true of other services, it can be difficult to find support when you need it. Coupled with the fact that our families don’t get access to all of the support services offered to families in Department of Defense branches, I wanted to highlight three Coast Guard-specific agencies that are ready to help: The Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and the Coast Guard Foundation.
And, in honor of National Preparedness Month, I thought it would be a good time to pass along this information – before you may need it. You’ll also find a list of resources of other groups that provide assistance. If your favorite is not in our list, add it to the comments section. The more we learn of what is working for you, the better help we can be to all Coasties.
The Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association
No one knows when an emergency will strike. Pay is set, emergency drains on finances are not.
“Unfortunately when people need our help is when something bad is happening in your life,” said Chief Warrant Officer Larry Antonucci, president of the Cape May chapter of the CPOA – the chapter of the year for 2015.
The CPOA has 53 chapters across the country, and 47 branches of the Enlisted Association. It raised and donated $500,000 in 2012.
The Cape May chapter has been there for families traveling to tend to sick children in the hospital – they have provided hotel rooms and gas money. They help families who need to fly out for a funeral or to see a relative in a crisis. They also look out for the local veterans home by bringing gift bags at the holidays or help with food for its Memorial Day event.
There is no one common circumstance, Antonucci said. They just try to be there to lend a hand no matter what comes up.
Antonucci said it is not always the Coastie asking for help – it is the chief who is listening and realizes that someone is struggling.
“They don’t typically ask for help. We just, as their chiefs, reach out and try to help them,” he said. “If someone needed help they just need to ask their chief. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be their chief. Any chief will help.”
As long as the chapter has money to help, it will, he said. The Cape May chapter relies on donations and fundraisers like selling graduation coins to recruits or food sales.
Being part of an organization that provides a safety net is not just a positive for those being helped, but a positive for everyone because it is a reminder that no one has to survive alone, Antonucci said.
“It’s good for morale, in my opinion,” he said. “At your worst time, there are people out there willing to help and do what they can to better your situation in your time of need.”
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
Each branch of military service has some form of relief society, whether it is Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society or the Air Force Aid Society. The Coast Guard is no different — we rely on Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. In fact, survey results showed that in times of emergency, these relief societies come through for military families.
The CGMA provides financial assistance to the Coast Guard community through interest-free loans, grants and financial counseling. There are 135 locations, and together they provide about $4 million in financial assistance each year.
To get help through CGMA, just contact a local representative. Make sure to have two things ready: an application form and a budget form. You may also need documentation to go with the budget form that supports the request – things like bills that need to be paid, airfare statements or car repair estimates. You do not have to contribute to CGMA to receive its services.
It most commonly responds to circumstances like emergency travel, unexpected car repairs, and the expenses that arise from moving and finding a place to live, said Ron Wolf, the director of administration for the CGMA.
Wolf said CGMA represents the best aspects of the Coast Guard community taking care of its own.
“It serves as a financial safety net when unexpected events overtax a family’s budget,” Wolf said. “By relieving financial stresses on service members and their families, CGMA also helps maintain mission readiness.”
Coast Guard Foundation
The Coast Guard Foundation works together with the Coast Guard to identify and then fill some of the gaps during emergency situations that are not covered by federal funding.
In the aftermath of a tragedy, the foundation will assist with the things a family might need, like travel accommodations, or stipends for food or other necessitates, said Jennifer Fyke, the senior director of communications. The foundation spreads its reach beyond just Coast Guard active duty members and their families, but also to auxiliarists and Coast Guard Academy cadets.
The foundation’s Fallen Heroes Fund provides help during difficult times by partnering with the Coast Guard to make sure the community can appropriately honor those lost with a fitting tribute, grieve with the family and assist junior enlisted crewmembers so they can travel to the funerals, Fyke said.
“It is critical to the support and recovery of the extended Coast Guard community that those crewmembers impacted by the loss of a fellow crew member be given the opportunity to process their grief, honor those lost, and have some measure of closure, so when they return to work they are not put at risk unnecessarily,” she said.
Receiving assistance from the foundation begins with a point of contact from the Coast Guard who then alerts the foundation for the need for help.
“In most cases, we hear from the Coast Guard, usually from our point of contact at the headquarters level when there’s a death or if there is significant injury where assistance is needed for the Coast Guard member and family,” she said.
Fyke said the foundation considers itself proud to be part of the network of support in place for Coast Guard members and their families.
“Coast Guard members risk everything, every day, in service to our country,” Fyke said. “Whether on the front lines of search and rescue, maritime security or drug interdiction, or serving in another important support role, Coast Guard members are answering the call. Providing emergency support is one of the many ways we act as a lifeline in times of great need.”
More resources: Here are other agencies that also provide assistance to specifically Coast Guard families. What are we missing? Tell us in the comments section.
Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Foundation: This nonprofit has two funds set up to support Deployable Special Forces families in need. The Emergency Assistance Fund covers the those things that the Coast Guard is not authorized to cover during an emergency, like travel costs, lodging, funeral expenses or living expenses. The Nate Bruckenthal Memorial Scholarship is available to active duty and honorably discharged TACLET veterans, their spouses and their immediate dependent children.
U.S. Coast Guard Mom in Need Fund: This group helps moms attend their children’s graduation from boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey. It provides airfare and a one-night hotel stay. In return, moms just have to share their experiences on the group’s Facebook page.
Spouse’s clubs: Some local spouses clubs provide assistance during crises. The National Council of Coast Guard Spouse’s Clubs has started a directory of clubs. Check it out or add yours to the list.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.