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The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) kicked off its annual active duty fund drive with a ceremony at the Pentagon, March 4.

The drive, designed to raise funds necessary to financially assist Navy and Marine Corps personnel and NMCRS programs, will run for six weeks until April 11.

The NMCRS raises funds for programs and support services through repayment of interest-free loans, proceeds from thrift shops, the reserve fund, and most of all, contributions. Last year, the fund drive raised $9.9 million nationally. Locally in the National Capital Region (NCR) last year, the NMCRS assisted nearly 1,300 active duty and retired Sailors, Marines, and their families, providing more than $1 million in financial assistance.

“The fund drive is very critical for some of the young Sailors out there who don’t have a lot of financial experience,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Tyrone Blockton, assistant to the 2014 NCR campaign. “This program affords them an opportunity to learn how to manage their money, how to better manage their finances, and also it helps them in cases of emergencies.”

Blockton explained the goal of the campaign is not only 100 percent contact with personnel, but stressed meaningful contact that goes beyond simply asking for donations.

“In meaningful contact, you’re actually explaining what the program is all about, explaining members of the program, history of the program, and how it’s best set up to help your shipmates,” he said.

In the 2013 drive, 48 percent of the contributions to the campaign came from active-duty Sailors and Marines helping fellow active-duty members in need, with another 12% coming from military retirees.

Blockton said he began donating to the drive as soon as he enlisted more than 20 years ago, but wasn’t aware of all the benefits that came from the program. He said he missed a family funeral because of a lack of finances, not knowing he was eligible for aid through the NMCRS. Now, he wants to make sure every Sailor knows the resources available to them.

The NMCRS offers a range of programs beyond emergency loans, including financial counseling, education assistance, health education and post-combat support, child budgeting, disaster relief, emergency travel funding, and access to thrift shops. By using a workforce composed mostly of volunteers, most contributions go back to service members and their families.

Rear Adm. Mark Rich, commandant, Naval District Washington, and Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, commanding general, Marine Corps Installation Command, are co-chairing this year’s regional fund drive, working with installation coordinators to ensure the meaningful impact is spread through the NCR.

For more information on the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and how to donate, visit www.nmcrsfunddrive.org.

Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Pedro Rodriguez, NDW Public Affairs, contributed to this article.