Young isle volunteer earns recognition for her efforts


POSTED: Saturday, May 23, 2009

Melissa Monette saw the struggle her grandmother went through to get enough food on a fixed income.

That vision led two years ago to recent national recognition for the Mililani High School junior for exemplary volunteer work.

“;I was worried about my grandmother because her bills were greater than her income. I figured other senior citizens must be in the same situation,”; she said, so Monette started A Harvest for Many Inc., a food-distribution nonprofit for hundreds of others in need.

A Harvest for Many collected and distributed canned and fresh food to seniors and later expanded to feed the homeless, at-risk teens and children from families with domestic abuse, Monette said. It also offered nutrition and exercise programs to more than 120 seniors on a regular basis.

Monette recently attended an award ceremony in Washington, D.C., as one of two Hawaii recipients of the 2009 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

She is also one of 24 winners of the 2009 Nestle Very Best in Youth Competition and one of 50 finalists in the 2009 Huggable Heroes, sponsored by the Build-a-Bear Workshop (a retail/entertainment company).

Monette said her work was prompted by compassion: “;When you are exposed to people suffering from poverty or facing a life-threatening childhood disease, how can anyone turn their backs on them?”;

Her father, Mike Monette, said on behalf of wife Anne, “;She inspires us every day. For Melissa no task is too small. Dedication and hard work are qualities she believes in.”;

Two years ago she also became president of Kids Helping Kids with Diabetes, taking over for her college-bound brother, who started the nonprofit.

“;When we were younger we helped complete a landscape project at a Ronald McDonald House and met children with diabetes ... and discovered how painful and life-threatening this disease can be,”; Monette said.

Monette coordinated walk-athons that have raised about $60,000, and an annual shoe race at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park (now called Wet & Wild) for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The nonprofit also held education programs about diabetes in the schools and petitioned the state House of Representatives to support bills to raise funds for diabetes research, she said.