Inspiring Okeechobee: Hazellief involved in many community activities

OKEECHOBEE — When I think of this week’s person for Inspiring Okeechobee, I cannot help but think of the word stewardship. You may think of stewardship as a biblical term for providing the church a tithe or offering, but I also like to think of it as the use of your time, talents and gifts. Michael Hazellief is truly a steward to the people of Okeechobee.

Michael Hazellief

I have known Michael for a few years. We first became acquainted at Okeechobee High School’s band activities. We both have band kids. If anything can bring adults closer, it’s marching band season, as we spend many hours working to support the band’s efforts. From concession stand work during football season, to long comfortable school bus rides to faraway places, Michael just walked in and got to work! Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is just what he does — shows up, smiles, offers to lend a hand and without the desire of accolade or praise. He is happy just to be part of something greater than himself. Really, that’s what stewardship is all about.

Michael is or has been involved in numerous community activities (forgive me if I miss some): OHS Brahman Band Booster, For Okeechobee, The Adam Bryant Minimal Regatta, Kiwanis Club, and the current president of the Fraternal Order of Police. Most of the time he is like that Hair Club for Men (oops … sorry big guy) ad: He’s not just a member, he’s the president! You see, Michael takes leadership roles wherever the need arises, and most of the time we’re none the wiser.

He is the man behind the Independence Day celebration at Okee-Tantie and the annual Shop with a Cop for needy children during the Christmas season.

Both of these events take substantial amounts of effort to plan, organize, promote, implement and bring to a safe as well as successful conclusion.

Michael, does it without people even realizing he is the one who has spearheaded the effort. This past Christmas I had the joy and honor of being there for Shop with a Cop and true to his character, Michael was there getting the hard work done with numerous volunteers. I think he is one of few who people just can’t say no to!

When speaking with his wife of nearly six years, Jeanne, she said she broke all the “rules” she had for dating and later marrying Michael: one, he was a “cop” and two, he was “from Okeechobee.” Both of these things were deal breakers for her, yet he persisted and the two married in 2011. On the wedding day, Jeanne’s daughters gained a father and wonderful role model.

Jasmine, 19, is currently studying at Indian River State College and Hannah, 16, is a sophomore at Okeechobee High School.

Wife Jeanne added, “It takes a great person to come into someone’s life and have to take on the role of dad,” but he does it without hesitation. Jeanne said the best thing about Michael, is “he can put up with me!” She added, “he will do anything and everything for anyone.”

Michael’s mom, Joy Walker adds that, “He is the best thing I ever accomplished in my life.” Joy moved back to Okeechobee in the past few years, and noted she had no idea “what a part of the community he was and how much he gives back. He is just such a man of integrity,” she added.

Michael’s mom also commented that Michael is always positive and for forward thinking, knowing that God has a plan for his life. Joy further replies that she is so incredibly proud of his role as a father to Jasmine and Hannah, in that he ensures that he is active and involved in their activities, as they are in his. She finished by saying, “He will always be a part of the community.” People know that his word is his bond.

Currently, Michael is in the training division at the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office. He is pursuing his Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and teaches at Indian River State College in the Public Safety department. In 2015. Michael was named Adjunct Professor of the Year for Public Safety.

Michael, you inspire me to be a better citizen every day. Thank you for inspiring me and our community this week.

Leah Suarez is a freelance writer.

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