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Volunteers sought for teen girls’ health program

WESTFIELD — Edward Mello Jr., director and president of the Greater Westfield and Western Hampden County Medical Reserve Corps and Greater Westfield Community Emergency Response Team, is putting out a call for volunteers from the community who would like to get involved in a new group for teenage girls to help them make healthy choices, educate themselves about their bodies, and become self-sufficient.

“A lot of the young girls at a young age get involved with drugs and sex, and become pregnant. We’re trying to let them know that they’re special; let them know that they are beautiful, that they have a long life ahead of them, then try to give them answers to questions that they have,” said Mello, adding, “Trying to get them to really understand … they could have a good life ahead of them, and they need to decide whether they want to make good choices, or continue what they have been doing that may have gotten them into trouble.”

Mello is a retired registered nurse and founder of the Medical Reserve Corps, which has received a grant to help female students in grades eight to 12, after responding to a call to action from the surgeon general. He said the group, which will be sponsored by the MRC, will work with, a website geared to girls and healthy choices that is maintained by the Office on Women’s Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mello said the program will be open to students in Westfield, Southwick, West Springfield and Holyoke, to start. He said the MRC plans to meet with the superintendents of these districts for permission to speak to the students and to give them information on the group, after it is reviewed by the schools. The goal is to have a group that meets once a week for two hours, with a location to be determined.

Social worker Tolley Jones of Easthampton will be leading the group, and she will be reaching out especially to young women of color to get them involved.

Mello is also looking for volunteer nurses, physicians assistants, doctors, social workers, firemen, emergency medical technicians, parents, guardians, teachers, principals or anyone else who believes this type of work is needed, and who can share their expertise.

He said the group will also provide information for mothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends who are ready to take a stand and help keep young women from getting involved in drugs, sex and unhealthy relationships. He has seven or eight volunteers so far who understand the goals of the project. All volunteers must pass a criminal record check.

Mello said there is no charge to the students in the program, and donations are welcome and will be used to purchase materials for the students. They will also take donations of working computers for students who do not have one.

To volunteer or to learn more about the program, contact Mello at [email protected] or by phone at 413-330-3757.

Mello has been involved with the Medical Reserve Corps since 2006, after serving as a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse and nurse practitioner, and working with the military and medical force at Barnes on overseas trips.

Medical Reserve Corps volunteer Jackie O’Brien makes sure that Reading Coach Melissa Vadnais is safely retrieving her materials from Munger Hill Elementary School. (SALVATORE FRIERE PHOTO)

The Medical Reserve Corps is a volunteer non-profit organization that helps out in emergencies including tornadoes, and snow and ice storms, providing shelters and food when called upon. The MRC also has a 24-foot portable kitchen that they can deploy.

“We can cook anything in that kitchen,” Mello said.

At the start of the COVID-19 shutdown, the MRC also helped school personnel and students retrieve supplies, and give out bagged food to families.

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