by Brian Lamar, U.S. Navy Public Affairs

Darlene Carpenter; a native of Pass Christian, has just a few more blankets to go before she reaches 16,000 volun- teer hours with the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society.

Last week, in a volunteer appreciation awards luncheon, Carpenter was asked to come to the front of the room filled with peers, colleagues and pizza to honor her commitment to helping others.

Currently, Carpenter is a volunteer member of the Layette program. The Layette Program supports the Budget for Babies course by providing hand- crocheted Afghans and baby blankets. Carpenter has been volunteering for the Gulfport NMCRS office since 2001.

Carpenter started out with NMCRS 38 years ago as an interviewer (now called caseworker) in Kingsville Texas when the organization was still referred to as the Navy Relief Office.

She naturally migrated toward the Layette program due to her life-long ability to crochet.

“It takes me about a week with a cou- ple of hours each night to put together a blanket. The blankets are required to be a perfect 36-inch square,” said Carpenter. “I love crocheting and I’ve been doing crochet since I was 14. Back then I did it with family members for new babies in the family. I married my husband (Sail- or) and learned about the Navy relief of- fice. I found there was a place where I could use my craft and that makes me happy to see the difference it makes.”

Throughout her years of crocheting for NMCRS, she has only witnessed two babies with one of her blankets draped over them.

Carpenter states that since she doesn’t meet the Budget for Babies class par- ticipants, she doesn’t know who gets the

to help others. We crochet lap blankets, scarves, and shawls and distribute them to a local nursing home,” Carpenter said as she packed a bag of lap blankets to do- nate next Tuesday.

The volunteer luncheon conjured up emotions of gratitude but stirred long- dormant thoughts of one of the best and worst moments of being an NMCRS volunteer.

“I don’t do this for recognition, but I appreciate being appreciated. I recall my best memory and most challeng- ing moment while being a volunteer. I was stationed in Puerto Rico as a case worker with my husband. There was a young Sailor that had a bad fall. I had stepped in as a temporary director while our director was on vacation. The young man’s parents didn’t speak English. We were able to find a translator and get his parents to Puerto Rico while we worked on his case to help him. This organiza- tion (NMCRS) went out of its way to do what it could to get that boy’s parents to Puerto Rico,” she explained while chok- ing back tears. “I still think of that fam- ily sometimes. You rarely know the final outcome of your efforts, but you know that you were there for them when they needed help the most.”

“You never know the situation when that person walks in the door. They all get the same treatment and respect no matter what the situation. It is a great organization to volunteer for. Even if we can’t help you directly, we have the means to find you support,” she said.

Carpenter said she couldn’t think of any other way to spend her life. Volun- teerism is her way of life.

“I think volunteering is the most self- less thing you can do. I encourage any- one to take time to spend on others. If you sign up as a volunteer, you are going into this knowing that you aren’t get- ting paid and may not be recognized, but it’s what you feel and what you can give back that matters. That is the real reward,” she said.

Carpenter has roughly five more blan- kets until she reaches her 16,000 hours of volunteerism. She states that she doesn’t keep track of her hours and was surprised by this milestone. Her plan is to just sim- ply continue handing in blankets as fast as she is able for as long as she is able.