By Staff Sgt. Crista Yazzie, USARPAC Public AffairsJuly 27, 2010
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii Aca,!" When most face a drive home to relax at the end of the duty day, Sgt 1st Class Ronnie Russell is just beginning work on his public service volunteer projects.
He excelsAca,!"not just as the U.S. Army, Pacific Contingency Command Post Operations non-commissioned officer Aca,!" but as a community leader. Russell endeavors outside of his already busy duty day and was recently cited to receive the 2010 Blacks in Government Award from the national organization, Blacks in GovernmentAca,!"dedicated to African Americans engaged in public service who promote equality in all aspects of American life, excellence in public service and opportunity for all Americans.
BIG will present the award to Russell on Aug. 16, at a ceremony in Kansas City, Mo. "Russell promotes opportunities to improve individuals\' lives across racially and ethnically diverse communities throughout the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and specifically, established a nonprofit organization called REACH with the sole purpose of rebuilding the economy one community at a time," said Lt. Col. Shane Duncanson, USARPAC CCP.
"REACH is a metaphor, not an acronym, an active way of making things happen, whether you are reaching out to someone or you are reaching for a personal goal that you may have for yourself, because you have to be active, not only in the community but also an active thinker to make things happen for yourself as well," said Russell. Russell said his involvement in the program stemmed from personal experiences.
"I was homeless once... I know what it feels like, so it feels more personal for me to do this, because if I can take someone away from having that feeling, even if it's for just a moment, then that moment was meant to be; changing something for that moment, I may have changed something for a lifetime," he said.
"Also, I knew it was needed when I lived here in Hawaii as a military dependent, between 6th and 9th grade." In addition to REACH, Russell has created the Jackie McFarland Academic Scholarship, in honor of his friend who was killed in action during a deployment to Iraq and served as mentor and big brother to Russell's son.
The scholarship's intended recipients for financial aid are those from single-parent homes demonstrating financial need.
If that's not enough to do outside of a full twelve hour day of work, Russell is also president of RMS Zine, LLC, a company he founded in Sept. 2009. RMS Zine is a publication company which provides direct publications to the Hawaiian community for free, with revenue for the publications stemming from advertising. The first publication from RMS Zine is 808Ink, the only Hawaii-based magazine dedicated to Hawaii's tattoo industry.
"This award is very fitting. He channels his energy outwards without detracting from his duties, and I am not surprised," said Russell's supervisor Lt. Col. Nathan Watanabe, Chief of Operations USARPAC CCP.
"On duty, Russell is the best for current operations in the CCP. He is ultimately reliable and can get pretty much anything done, so it is really no surprise that he has applied his tremendous talents outside of the Army in both his personal business and in charity events for which he is being recognized. He's multitalented, intelligent, very well-deserved."
Russell's first community-based project for REACH was a food and clothing drive in April 2010, which provided non-perishable food items, hot meals, clothing, children's books and shoes to more than 100 families in the Waianae and Makaha communities on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. In order to request assistance with REACH and advertising for the magazine, Russell approached each business individually.
"I just knew that I couldn't do it all by myself, and in knowing that, I had to go out and speak to people, and give them my vision and the reasoning behind it," he said. "It was hard because I was in between travel for the Army," he said. "In January, I was in Thailand. As soon as I came back from Thailand, I was told the very next Monday that I had to go to the Philippines."
"So I had five days to make it or break it, and within those five days, I had three people who said they were committed to the event. By the time I came back from the Philippines, the ball began to roll, to where Hawaii Self Storage allowed the self-storage facility to be used without any, and everything else fell into place."
Some of the other contributors that assisted in this program were Hawaii Food Bank, Goodwill, Mom's Soulfood Restaurant, Pet Smart, a hula halau called Na Pualei a Likolehua and many more. As for REACH, the nonprofit charity has just begun, said Russell.
A youth camp and job fair are just two future plans he has in the works. The next activity for REACH will be conducted in December as part of a holiday drive.
"We'll be collecting toys this time," said Russell. "We'll be partnering with a non-profit organization called Music for Autism, and we'll' have a live band to play music for the families."