To continue enjoying all the features of Navy Federal Online, please use a compatible browser. You can confirm your browser capability here.

By: Allison Stevens  | September 15, 2023 

One morning a few years ago, a veteran in Southern California caught wind of “Waves of Valor,” a surf camp for veterans hosted by Team Red, White and Blue (RWB), a nonprofit organization that promotes veteran health.

With a pair of bad knees and an equally bad back, the veteran — then in his late 60s — struggled with mobility. But he couldn’t resist the song of the sea. 

On the morning of camp, he headed to the local beach and met his coach, Scott Rothert, manager of a local Navy Federal Credit Union branch and a longtime volunteer with Team RWB. As the two headed toward the water, the veteran hesitated. He wasn’t ready to storm the beaches of SoCal and decided instead to watch the others from shore. 

“I spent the rest of the morning sitting with him,” said Rothert, “listening to his stories and gaining an even greater appreciation for our veterans.” Eventually, the former airman mustered the strength to wade into the water and ride a few waves with his belly to the board.

The day didn’t go as expected, but Rothert says the event achieved its goal — and, a few years later, he’s still dedicated to the cause of supporting veteran health through Team RWB.

Force Multiplier for Good

This spring, Rothert saw an opportunity to increase his impact. 

He applied for and won a grant from Navy Federal’s Dollars for Doers program, which awarded 100 Navy Federal employees a $1,000 philanthropic grant to support their volunteer work. This year’s recipients give back in countless ways, from rescuing animals to finding cures for brain tumors to supporting new moms of color. All told, Navy Federal is donating $100,000 this year to nonprofit organizations in the communities where employees live and serve, bringing the total to $1.6 million since its inception 16 years ago.  

“Our Dollars for Doers program is a force multiplier for good,” said Brandi Gomez, who manages the Navy Federal Serves program. “It’s an amazingly generous program that allows us to lean into the credit union’s philosophy of people helping people. Navy Federal backs employee volunteers and supports causes we care about across many communities through Dollars for Doers and paid volunteer leave benefits.” 

Rothert’s grant money will help 10 low-income veterans cover registration fees for a fall event to climb Los Angeles County’s Mount San Antonio, a 12-mile hike up 7,000 feet to the top of “Mount Baldy.” A veteran of the climb, Rothert says the time spent helping and cheering on vets is far more rewarding than making it to the top.

Another winner, Thomas Racca, is using the grant to help his new neighbors in the Shenandoah Valley, where he moved last year to take a job at Navy Federal’s Winchester, Virginia, campus. A manager of the personal finance team at Navy Federal, Racca and his team earn a living giving financial advice; he spends his free time doling it out for free. 

“As a Navy Federal employee, I have spent most of the last decade working to improve the financial literacy of our members,” he says, noting that many struggle to pay for necessities like gas, electricity and childcare. “Seeing firsthand some of the ways that ‘life happens’ to members of our community has strengthened my resolve to ensure that help is always there for people that ask for it.”

Racca’s grant was donated to United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley, which supports low-income working families in the area. The money will help pay for classroom materials at area schools, afterschool care for low-income students and organic produce for families experiencing food insecurity. It will also support one of his pet partner organizations — the Valley Assistance Network, which connects people in crisis with information they need to become financially secure. 

Living United

“United Way’s mantra, Live United, is how we should all strive to improve our communities and create a better future for everyone,” Racca says. Tracey Englebright of Martinsburg, West Virginia, agrees, though she puts the idea in different words, specifically those of Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” 

An employee relations specialist at Navy Federal, Englebright begins her day not with a cup of coffee or an early run but caring for horses. Every morning — seven days a week, 365 days a year — she heads to Horses With Hearts, a volunteer-run farm that offers equine-assisted services, which include therapeutic riding lessons and equine learning services for individuals with any type of special need, including veterans. Englebright feeds and grooms the farm’s 18 horses. She cleans their troughs and mucks their stalls. She drags and mows the fields and leads or walks alongside horses during rides.

“I always had a love for horses,” she says, “and I was looking for a way to serve my community in a meaningful way.” 

Horses With Hearts checked the box. Participants gain confidence, independence and acceptance — a change she describes as awe-inspiring. To once again quote Churchill: “There is something about a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Running the farm is expensive — about $50,000 per year to care for the horses alone — and every dollar helps. She plans to use all $1,000 given by Navy Federal to help offset the cost of lessons and to support special events. She also says it will benefit a capital campaign to create a full-time, year-round program.

“The Dollars for Doers grant was such a blessing,” she says. “I’m so very thankful that I work for an organization that supports giving back to communities.” 

Author Bio: Allison Stevens is a writer, editor and communications professional who specializes in strategic storytelling. A member of Navy Federal’s Corporate Communications team, Allison tells and shares stories about members who achieve their goals with the help of Navy Federal’s products and services and supports the team’s external communications and media relations initiatives. A former reporter, she holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in journalism.


This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.