USARPAC sergeant extends REACH
August 17, 2010
Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Crista Yazzie,
U.S. Army-Pacific Contingency Command Post Public Affairs
FORT SHAFTER — When most are facing a drive home at the end of the duty day, Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Russell is just beginning work on his public service volunteer projects.
These endeavors outside of his duties as the U.S. Army-Pacific Contingency Command Post Operations noncommissioned officer led Russell to receive the 2010 Blacks in Government Award.
BIG is 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 in Kansas City, Mo., Aug. 16.
“Russell promotes opportunities to improve individuals’ lives across racially and ethnically diverse communities throughout the island of Oahu, and specifically, (he) 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.
Russell’s first community-based project for REACH was a food and clothing drive in April, which provided nonperishable food items, hot meals, clothing, children’s books and shoes to more than 100 families in the Waianae and Makaha communities.
“REACH is a metaphor, not an acronym; (it’s) an active way of making things happen, whether you are reaching out to someone or you are reaching for a personal goal,” Russell said, “because you have to be active, not only in the community, but … to make things happen for yourself as well.
“I was homeless once,” Russell continued. “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,” Russell said. “Changing something for that moment, I may have changed something for a lifetime.”
In addition to REACH, Russell has created the Jackie McFarland Academic Scholarship, in honor of his friend who was killed in action in Iraq, and who also served as mentor and big brother to his son. The scholarship’s intended recipients are those from single-parent homes demonstrating financial need.
If that’s not enough to do outside of a full, 12-hour workday, Russell is also president of RMS Zine, LLC, a company he founded that provides direct publications to the Hawaiian community for free, with revenue for the publications stemming from advertising.
“This award is very fitting. He channels his energy outwards without detracting from his duties,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Watanabe, chief of operations, USARPAC CCP. “On duty, Russell is the best for current operations. 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, (and this recognition is) very well-deserved.”
As for REACH, Russell said the nonprofit charity has just begun. A youth camp and job fair are just two of the future plans he has in the works, and the next activity will be conducted in December as part of a holiday drive.
“We’ll be collecting toys this time,” Russell said. “We’ll be partnering with a nonprofit organization called ‘Music for Autism,’ and we’ll have a live band to play music for the families.”