The OCP Blog

Featured Volunteer of the Month: Melissa Howard

“When a person is enlightened his or her words become like seeds, full of life and energy. And they can remain in seed form for centuries until they are sown in a receptive, fertile heart.” – Anthony De Mello

Most of us have a story to tell, and here is a synopsis of how our featured volunteer of the month was able to make an impression on our community. Born in Goldsboro NC, home of the Seymor Johnson Air Force Base, Ms. Melissa Howard learned at an earlier period of her life that even a tragic situation can become an opportunity. Douglas Abrams says that “there’s another Tibetan saying that it is actually the painful experiences that shine the light on the nature of happiness. They do this by bringing joyful experiences into sharp relief.”  Being the forth out of six children in a military family can be a bit challenging, but Melissa learned at a young age to develop a genuine spirit to put others before the self. Ms. Howard is known for being the one who designed the first “Welcome Your Neighbors” sign outside of the Immanuel Mennonite Church, written in English, Spanish, and Arabic. Ms. Melissa Howard also does great work for her community by reproducing logos and signs for Our Community Place.

These endeavors in community involvement began as Ms. Melissa Howard turned twenty years of age. Her interest toward improving the world around her first lead her to wood carving, then gourd design, and finally post and sign development when she migrated to Harrisonburg. Ms. Howard went through a traumatic experience when, as she settled in Harrisonburg, her significant other left her isolated. As “Missy,” the nickname most of the locals know her by, regained self-confidence, painting and other artistic activities were the only things that would make her feel full. She started offering her skills to non-profits and businesses all over the community, and her touch spoke with such volume that she was able to sustain herself regardless of the state of mind she was in. She has now found a community that has given her an experience of family that she missed when she was young.

Underneath this loving, caring, and compassionate individual, there is the part that most will never see unless we care to ask. I asked Ms. Howard what she would say if she had to look in her past life experiences to give advice to community members who are reading this blog. That’s when Ms. Howard chuckled while looking up at the ceiling of her house and said; “there are few things that make me look forward to waking up every day; knowing that my family loves me and misses me, improving the image of my community with more signs of love, compassion and care, and giving my heart to people who would nurture it instead of hurting it.”



Leons Kabongo

Activities & Programming Coordinator