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    Seize the Day: Evelyn Liberty-Topliff Retires from Navy Marine Corps Relief Society

    Seize the Day: Evelyn Liberty-Topliff Retires from Navy Marine Corps Relief Society

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Tristan Lotz | 210602-N-ME396-1014 GROTON, Conn. (June 2, 2021) Evelyn Liberty-Topliff poses for a...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tristan Lotz 

    Subase New London

    GROTON, Conn. - The director of the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) office at Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London will retire from her position after nearly four decades of helping Sailors, Marines, and families, July 1.

    A native of Essex Junction, Vermont, Evelyn Liberty-Topliff first joined NMCRS in 1982 as a Navy wife and has been making difference for service members and families since.

    “I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t believe in the mission, what the Society stands for,” noted Liberty-Topliff. “It’s been a great organization to work with.”

    NMCRS is a non-profit charitable organization providing, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational, and other assistance to members of the naval services of the United States, eligible family members, and survivors when in need.

    Volunteer, Global Trainer, and Director Liberty-Topliff started out volunteering and held that position for four years, but after a brief stint with the American Red Cross, she returned as a Society employee.

    “When I moved here, they didn’t hire Navy wives as school teachers because we weren’t going to be around for long,” said Liberty-Topliff. “That was back when they could tell you that. I actually read an ad in the [SUBASE] Dolphin newspaper saying the Society needed volunteers, so I called up! They asked if I could come in tomorrow, and the rest was history.”

    As an employee, Liberty-Topliff served first as a budget counselor, working one-on-one with Sailors and Marines to help them get their finances in order. Some of these Sailors would even come back to thank her for helping them.

    “I remember having young Sailors come back after having two or three sessions and they’re back on track,” said Liberty-Topliff. “They’d been able to put money in savings and catch up on bills…just by sitting down with me and doing a budget and setting up a plan.”

    A few times the help was in the form of “tough love” according to Liberty-Topliff.

    “Occasionally we’ve had to say ‘no’ when a Sailor requested financial assistance,” said Liberty-Topliff. “I remember one Sailor actually thanking me for saying ‘no’, because it gave him the kick in the rear, so to speak, he needed to get his act together.”

    Liberty-Topliff’s efforts in the financial education arena had far reaching effects. As the Society and the Navy recognized the growing complexity of service member financial issues and the success of in-depth, one-on-one financial education and counseling, the Navy established the Command Financial Specialist program and the Society asked Liberty-Topliff to travel the country and world as a training specialist.

    “I’ve been to almost 30 of the 50 Society offices, including the whole East Coast from Maine to Florida,” said Liberty-Topliff. “I’ve been to Italy, Spain, Newfoundland and Bermuda. I’ve gotten to see a little bit of the world and had a good adventure.”

    The transition from volunteer to employee to renowned global trainer paved the path for Liberty-Topliff’s ultimate selection to lead the Society’s office at SUBASE as director.

    “Becoming the director of the NMCRS office here at SUBASE allowed me to complete my professional goals with the Society,” said Liberty-Topliff.

    “Back when I first became a volunteer, I decided that one day I wanted to be a director. That day arrived at the right time in my career and I was able to transition into my dream job. Being back at NMCRS Groton full-time was like coming home for me.”

    A New Society

    In her years at NMCRS, Liberty-Topliff saw the organization change greatly as new technology, systems, and programs made an impact.

    “When I started 38 years ago, we didn’t have computers,” said Liberty-Topliff. “We did everything by pencil and paper. We used to say about budget planning with clients that we had a little pencil and a huge eraser because we’d get to the end of the budget and they would say, ‘Oh, I forgot something,’ so we would go in and erase and fill in some more."

    Whether helping the Society shift to being almost paperless now, or leading reforms to office protocols and the base’s thrift shop, Liberty-Topliff kept the focus on improving NMCRS to keep up with the needs of Sailors, Marines, and families.

    “It’s a new Society,” said Liberty-Topliff. “It’s current. When I started we barely covered car repairs, now that’s one of the biggest things we cover each year. Our thrift shop has flourished. When I started as the director, it was open two days a week. We’re open five days a week now, and one day we’re even open late for people who get off work at 3 [p.m.], for instance. We also take credit and debit cards now; we’re moving away from being strictly cash-based.”

    Seizing the Day

    The next changes at the Society will involve Liberty-Topliff herself, as she concludes her personally adored and professionally instrumental career.

    “I’m leaving while I still enjoy the job,” said Liberty-Topliff. “I wanted to leave while I still loved what I do and go out on a high note. We just wrapped-up our annual fund drive and it exceeded what we earned in 2018, 2019 and 2020! The Sailors here at SUBASE gave me my wish: we had a very successful fund drive, and I want to thank every one of them.”
    Liberty-Topliff also is thankful for the SUBASE’s leadership and the Society’s dedicated volunteers.

    “SUBASE is a wonderful community,” she highlighted. “I’ve had some terrific commanding officers, XO’s, command master chiefs; and, if I didn’t have the wonderful volunteers that I have, I couldn’t do this job.”
    It’s the volunteers that make the Society so special according to Liberty-Topliff.

    “Working with the dedicated volunteers that have come through here over the years is one of the best parts of the job,” she noted. “You get to meet people from different places in the country-or the world-different walks of life. And in the submarine fleet, they always seem to come back around. It’s a family. It truly is.”

    As she steps back from her active leadership role at the Society, Liberty-Topliff feels she’s allowing a new generation of that family the same opportunity to help others and excel that she got. She added that she may even volunteer to support service members in another capacity.

    “I just like being an advocate for Sailors and for young military families,” said Liberty-Topliff. “That’s very important to me. They need an advocate.”

    But in no way will retiring mean slowing down; Liberty-Topliff said she is staying local and plans to stay busy with her four dogs, retired husband, and community.

    “I’m saying farewell, not goodbye; goodbye is too final,” concluded Liberty-Topliff as she reflected both on her past at the Society and her future ahead. “I’m going to miss it, but it’s the right time for me. Carpe Diem! Seize the day.”



    Date Taken: 06.25.2021
    Date Posted: 06.25.2021 13:49
    Story ID: 399764
    Location: GROTON, CT, US 
    Hometown: ESSEX JUNCTION, VT, US

    Web Views: 297
    Downloads: 0