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Keesler's top volunteer earns national recognition

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Keesler's Volunteer of the Year, Michele Hirata, has been recognized with the Award of Honor from the National Military Family Association's Very Important Patriot program.
Mrs. Hirata, spouse of Maj. Jeff Hirata, 2nd Air Force, was one of five winners in her category and receives $500. 

The VIP program recognizes volunteers worldwide whose outstanding service contributes to improving the quality of life in their military and surrounding communities.  Active-duty, Guard, Reserve and retired military members, their family members and survivors are eligible. 

In her 17 years as an Air Force spouse, Mrs. Hirata has been involved with base and community organizations at every assignment. 

During earlier assignments, she devoted hundreds of hours as director of Airmen's Attic, organized a base-wide talent show that raised nearly $1,000 for the American Red Cross, served as a Meals on Wheels driver and sold concessions at sporting and music events to raise money for the Alamo Head Injury Association. 

Since arriving at Keesler, she's volunteered more than 4,000 hours and $25,000 worth of purses, shawls, hats, scarves and other garments to raise money for cancer research and other charities. 

Mrs. Hirata designs "chemo beanies," knitted from T-shirt fabric for patients undergoing chemotherapy or hair loss illnesses that she distributes free of charge. She gives away about 48 of the caps each month. She sells handmade items at area festivals to raise the funds to make the caps. 

Last summer, she sold specially designed pins at festivals and raised $200 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She also made and sold custom purses to benefit the Keesler Spouses Club. 

Mrs. Hirata made costumes for the annual St. Paul's Preschool Circus in Ocean Springs and volunteered as a clown at four parties for underprivileged children, where she painted faces and made balloon animals. She was also one of the organizers of Hearts with Hope, a music festival held in May to raise money for Gulf Coast cancer victims.
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