Retired Detroit Police Officer Still Guardian to Community

Content brought to you by Detroit Medical Center

onella Bell retired from the Detroit Police Department in 2005, but she never stopped being a guardian to her community in Detroit's Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood.

Heavily involved in all areas of her neighborhood, Bell hosts exercise and ballroom dance classes twice a week at her church, St. Timothy United Methodist Church. She is the founder and president of the United Neighborhood Block Club, and she started the Isaiah Literacy Project and Food Pantry in 2011 to help motivate and mentor local youth. Twice a month, she helps collect and give food to those in need.

She says her volunteer work is how she maintains the health of her community.

"I am reaching out to my community, and I am doing it because I am a Christian. But I am also doing it because I really care about where my city is going and how our communities can become stronger by investing time and energy and opening doors for all these programs," says Bell, 63. "And DMC is such a dynamic health institution. They go out into the neighborhoods and, when they run into people like me, they invest in what I am contributing to my community and assist me as needed."


She says that work is going a step further with DMC's Healthy You, Healthy Community initiative. She will now be able to further affect her community's health by getting residents to sign up for health care.

"It's about (organizations) like DMC who see what I am trying to do and help me push it forward," says Bell, who stresses that helping a community is a team effort.

"DMC, my church pastor, Christopher Grimes, Sister Janet Stankowski from Madonna University-I want to give everyone credit, because it's not all about me. I'm just the one who does all the cheerleading, pushing and begging, but they also see how everything is interconnected."

As she explains, if one aspect of a community is missing, such as access to health care, it creates a ripple effect through community members.

"If students are hungry, it's going to affect their health. If their health is affected, they are not going to be able to concentrate in school," she says. "A lot of people don't understand, when a child is not getting proper nutrition, they are going to school and they are already not prepared for the day."

Bell, who is also a licensed practicing nurse and a graduate registered nurse, says health begins with building self-esteem for the community by giving them health care, and for kids by encouraging them to dream.

"Once I get the kids to start building their self esteem, I give them the same principle that my mom gave me: That I could learn anything I put my mind to and that I was smart. She built up our self-esteem. And that's what I try to do," she says.

"But you know what the crazy thing about this whole thing is? I am so happy doing this. I am so happy serving the community. Even though I should be working and I could be making money as a nurse. It's not as rewarding in this time of my life as getting out in the community and helping our children and our seniors. So this is the most rewarding job in the world."

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