(By Deborah A. Culp)
Operation Heroes Connect is a nonprofit organization that partners volunteer service members and veterans with at risk youth. Founded in 2011, Operation Heroes Connect wanted to give back to the communities that have continued to support us. With so many children in need of a positive role model in their lives, the service members and veterans of OPHC can answer that call. Our mission at Operation Heroes Connect is to help provide assistance to at risk adolescents, by helping them to explore and access the support, resources and opportunities necessary for them to reach their full potential and make positive choices in their lives. Operation Heroes Connect provides support, guidance, friendship, role modeling, assistance, and an attentive ear to those in need.
A recent Question & Answer with the organizations CEO & Founder, Tawanda “Tee” Hanible provided an even better look into this valuable resource. This is what we asked, and this is what the very busy but highly focused “woman on a mission” offered us:
Q. What is Operation Heroes Connect?
A. Operation Heroes Connect is a nonprofit organization that partners volunteer service members and veterans from all the different military branches with at risk youth.
Q. Why did I start Operation Heroes Connect?
A. I created Operation Heroes Connect August of this year after being stationed here in Virginia and seeing a critical need for a program like this. After arriving here I found that there were so many other service members that had a passion to work with youth just as I did but didn’t know how to go about getting started. While stationed in Charlotte NC as a recruiter for the Marine Corps, I developed a passion for wanting to help youth. Although I was recruiting for the military at the time I found that I really enjoyed spending time with youth and being able to help contribute on a positive level and guide them to make better choices to reach their goals; but I think if I go back even further, my true passion comes from my parents who adopted my brother and I when were just 2 and 10months old. They were foster parents to many children who due to circumstance beyond their control were forced into the system. On top of the 4 children my parents already had and the 4 they adopted, I watched my mother and father become foster parents to over 15 different children, children who otherwise would have been lost in the system. That kind of unselfish giving helps motivate me to do what I do today.
Q Where do I see OPHC going in the next 2, 5, and 10 years?
A. I see us expanding and our services to encompass more areas and being able to help more children in the next 2 to 5 years. In the next 10 years I see Operation Heroes Connect being a household name with our services being widely known.
Q. How does OPHC stay afloat, personally, financially and via hands on assist?
A. Right now Operation Heroes Connects stays afloat financially by the contributions of myself as well as the time and resources that our board of directors contribute to OPHC. We are a small organization that work hard to not only getting OPHC off the ground but to ensure that it will be something long lasting.
Q. What am I seeking to accomplish with OPHC as a whole?
A. For the mentors, a sense of being a part of something bigger than ourselves similar to why we joined the service in the first place. For the mentees, a sense of belonging, being a part of an organization that has your best interest in mind. I hope that Operation Heroes Connect can hopefully also give the mentees something to look back on and be proud to have been a part of.
A. The target age group for our mentees range from age 7 to 17 for both male and females.
Q. Am I willing to branch out into other cities, states or even countries with OPHC?
A. One of my biggest goals with Operation Heroes Connect is to become a global movement, so yes I am definitely willing to branch out to other cities, states and countries. The need for mentors far expand that of just the DMV area and as long as that need is there I know that we have service members willing meet that need!
Q. Does my friends and family support OPHC as a whole?
A. My family definitely supports OPHC and what I am trying to accomplish. My husband has spent countless hours not only helping me to brainstorm ideas but also helping me to get Operation Heroes Connect off the ground. If not for him I honestly don’t know if I would have had the courage to put my dream into action. For more information see: www.operationheroesconnect.org