By Sgt. Jose D. Lujano, Defense Media Activity
Gunnery Sgt. Tawanda “Tee” Hanible’s work, in and out of uniform, continues the legacy of heroes positively impacting their Corps and Country.
Tee serves as the administration chief with Company D, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. After her transfer to Quantico in 2011, she founded Operation Heroes Connect.
Tee, a native of the Southside of Chicago, and her volunteers spend off-duty time mentoring troubled teens in the local community in and around Washington, D.C.
“This passion I have for helping these kids was inherited by my parents, who demonstrated the same love to my brother and I.” Tee said. “My mother always said, ‘I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I give till I cannot give anymore,’ but that was instilled in me by seeing them, because they would give even if they didn’t have anything to give.”
Tee was one of nine people, who received a Washingtonian of the Year Award, Jan. 15, at the ballroom in the Willard InterContinental Washington hotel, Washington, D.C.
Due to the competitiveness, the award is given to those, who demonstrate the utmost initiative and community spirit to better the city of Washington, according to Leslie Milk, the lifestyle editor of the Washingtonian magazine.
Since 1971, the magazine has recognized individuals, who volunteer or run non-profit organizations.
“She has a wonderful story,” Milk said. “She came from difficult circumstance and now she and her organization work to help young people, who are in rough situations. She has a wonderful spirit.”Tee felt it was her calling to help and work with at-risk children to provide support, resources, and opportunities necessary for them to reach their full potential.
“By being in that position, I can kind of advise them without them taking it from me as they would from their parents, which makes it easier for them to be a little more open to hearing what I have to say,” Tee said.
Hero’s Connect holds meet-and-greet type events where all the volunteers and children meet for the first time. At the end of these events the mentees select whom they would like as a mentor. 16-year-old Deja J. Adams selected Tee as her mentor.
“We met during a bad situation, but these last three years have been a blessing,” Adams said. “She has helped me a lot, and whenever I want to give up she’s there motivating me to not quit and stay strong. She brings out that Marine attitude in me.”
Both the mentor and the mentee must have a mutual respect and appreciation for one another, according to Tee.
“You know when you click with a kid and you think that’s just like me when I was that age, that’s Deja,” Tee said.
Deja looks up to her mentor, who guides her toward achieving her goals and dreams.
“I will be there for my mentee, because as my youngest [child] describes it ‘when I do things that’s great for others I get this warm fuzzy feeling, and I just want to keep doing it because I want to keep getting that feeling,’” said Tee.
“As I have received this award, I know I have had an impact in our community, but it still hasn’t hit me on the magnitude of this accomplishment,” Tee said. “I will feel a much greater sense of accomplishment when we are able to see our mentees one day become mentors, so that the cycle continues of people helping people.
“I guess it’s the Marine attitude in me to set high expectations while increasing the speed. Regardless, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends and loved ones.”
Tee goes out of her way to help people even if she has to break her back and there is never a bad time with her, according to Adams.
“That’s who she is — She’s your go-to-woman,” Adams said. “She’s the type of woman that if she isn’t busy more than 12 hours a day than she’s not doing enough.”