FORT BELVOIR, Va. --
Gunnery Sgt. Tawanda Hanible, diversity operations chief, office of diversity, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, was honored by the USO of Metropolitan Washington during the organization’s Annual Celebration of Volunteers here, Saturday.
Hanible, a native of Chicago’s South Side, stood out among her peers for her impact in the community and won the USO-Metro’s 2013 C. Haskell Small Award.
“She’s a shining example and embodies every trait of a selfless volunteer,” said Elaine Rogers, president and chief executive officer of the USO-Metro.
The USO-Metro asks every military branch to submit one candidate for their yearly volunteerism award, and according to Rogers, they seek to honor an enlisted service member who selflessly helps others while maintaining an outstanding record of military service.
“I’m just proud to serve in the same unit,” said Col. Robert G. Golden III, chief of staff, MCRC, who was present at the award ceremony. “She’s just an amazing Marine. She’s able to make time for her family as well as diligently and expertly accomplishing her duties at the recruiting command. Then whatever time she has left over, she volunteers in the community and serves in such a big way.”
In 2011, Hanible founded Operation Heroes Connect (OPHC), a non-profit volunteer organization that provides at-risk youth with role models through the volunteer work of service members and veterans. Hanible said mentorship and community outreach are the organization’s two missions.
OPHC consists of six volunteer administrative staff members, and approximately 100 active duty service members and veterans make up the body of the organization. Nearly half of the volunteers serve in mentorship roles and the rest assist with community outreach events.
Some events are organized internally, such as holiday parties, Easter egg hunts and end-of-school-year bashes, while others, like care package donations, Habitat for Humanity projects, Coats for Kids and homeless shelter volunteer work, are executed in partnership with other outreach organizations. OPHC is in the process of creating an annual recurring seminar called Finding Your Vision with the objective of empowering women to succeed in all areas of their lives.
Hanible, soft-spoken by nature, yet tenacious in her giving spirit, is flattered by the honors she has received.
“One word – overwhelmed – that’s how I feel today,” said Hanible. “When I started OPHC, I never intended to bring a spotlight to myself. I simply wanted to make a difference. My mother, Minnie Hudson, adopted me at age five. She was a foster mom to many, and although she passed away in 2008, her caring compassion has been my inspiration to give and to start the organization.”
During the USO-Metro event, Hanible also received a letter of appreciation signed by Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps. His signature included hand-written praise for her dedication.