By Retired Master Sgt. Stephen M. Lum
Hawaii’s Military Appreciation Month opening ceremony began with honoring seven military service members’ outstanding volunteerism, including Hawaii National Guard’s Spc. Melody R. Bell, May 8 at the State Capitol. For more than 30 years, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affair Council has sponsored the month-long May event tied to Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day.
Olongopo City, Philippines-born Bell’s volunteerism began way before she joined the Hawaii Army National Guard’s Co. C (Medical), 29th Brigade Support Bn., in 2012. She grew up in Waipahu and went on to attend Leilehua High School, Wahiawa and Georgia State University, Ga., where she said volunteerism became an aspect of her life.
Her volunteer work includes:
– Providing free screenings for homeless families
– Assisting and performing food, clothing and hygiene items distributions in various location and established sites
– Assisting and performing hospital visits to adults and children; social work assistance
– Assisting, planning and providing developmental activities for economically and financially challenged children
– Assisting and providing medical support within scope of expertise (vital screening)
The organizations she volunteers with include Empty Bowl, Hawaii; Lovefest, Ohana Love Hawaii; Hawaii Foodbank; the School Readiness Project; Project Vision and Partners in Development Foundation- Ka Pa`alana Homeless Family Education Program.
She’s no stranger to military life, Bell’s father, Donald, retired after 26 years with the U.S. Navy. The combat medic earned her bachelor’s degree in biology before joining the Guard to help defray graduate degree in social work. Her goal is to become certified as a social worker in Hawaii and hopes to be operating her own nonprofit in the future.
“I am extremely grateful and honored by the recognition for the service that I love to do within our community,” said Bell, “and this award is a reminder to continue to do more, to just keep swimming, and to remember that everyone is worth saving because in the face of darkness you drag everyone into the light.”