Since 2003, the United States through the president’s office, has recognized citizens who volunteer their time, in service to others. The highest of the four awards in this category is the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This year, Jamaican Dr Michelle Richards was among the few Americans who qualified, through their dedicated service of at least 4,000 hours to the community.
When Dr Richards left St Catherine, Jamaica in the summer of 1999, she wanted three things: “A better life for my daughter, to pursue banking, and to be close to her parents.” She had already achieved her bachelor’s degree in business administration from what is now The University of Technology. Added to her academics, she had also gathered enough banking experience at Workers Bank and the Bank of Jamaica.
Armed with those experiences and qualifications she joined Bank of America’s mortgage department in Sunrise Florida soon after arrival. Her drive and work ethics soon became evident to her new employer, and in 2004 she was promoted to vice president, as one of the top earners for the bank.
In 2003, Dr Richards had made another bold life-changing move; she got baptized. Three years later she was ordained as an evangelist. In 2010 she decided to leave the high-profile bank job, to pursue her dream of serving God, ministering, and giving back. Her decision was not taken well by her family and friends. “I was ridiculed a lot. Persons were asking if I was sure God wanted me to do this.” The concern from those looking on, was her walking away from a multiple six-figure income and moving into an unknown territory with much less financial security.
She would not be deterred however, and with her faith and determination, she embarked on her new journey to help the helpless and provide for the needy. According to her, “to make that bold move it took a lot, but God saw my heart and it was a calling he place in my life.”
Helping Gives Her a Sense of Peace
It has been a long and sometimes lonely road to travel but Dr Richards enjoys every minute of her work. “It gives a sense of peace and rest when I go to my bed and reflect on what I did to help others in need.” She also believes that her work gives encouragement to others who want to give as well.
One person who has been inspired and seen firsthand, the mental, spiritual, and physical benefits of Michelle’s work is Shawnelle Brown. “She is one of the most ambitious-driven persons I know. She is my biggest supporter and her work in the community has inspired me to give back and help the community as much as possible.” When Dr Richards heard this comment, she was moved to tears. Why? Shawnelle is her first daughter and was one of the skeptics when she started her journey. “It is touching to hear that coming from your own child because sometimes we don’t touch them the way we want to.”
But is not only family who has experienced Dr Richards’ love, kindness, and help. Natalya Worjloh who currently lives in London has benefitted from her help as well. “I am going through an amazing time of my life as Dr Michelle has helped me stay grounded and stay open to receive my blessings. She has helped me overcome so many obstacles and it’s because of her compassion, understanding, experience, and knowledge that I have been able to do so.”
Dr Richards has secured food, shelter, clothing, jobs and financial assistance for quite a few persons. For many years she hosted her birthday at the homeless shelter, feeding up to 250 persons. In Broward County she has also organized community events to assist the homeless.
Praise for her Community Work
Former Broward County Commissioner and aspiring congressman Dale Holness has known Michelle Richards for many years. He summed her up as a person who “has demonstrated a very strong commitment to community building and has rendered great service with excellence to our county.”
Vice-Mayor of Lauderhill, Denise Grant was also proud of Michelle’s work and her Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award. “Michelle Richards is an exceptional servant-leader. A woman of purpose and one eager to find effective solutions in enhancing her community. I’ve worked with Michelle on several projects and her innate ability to lead and simplify complex
matters speaks to firm abilities. She is deserving of this lifetime achievement award and as a Jamaican-American I’m very proud of my sister and friend.”
Dr. Richards’s work is not only confined to the USA. She has traveled to other countries to give and offer blessings. She Organized “Mission laptop tablet Jamaica,” donating over 200 laptop, tablets and SMART TV to the schools in Jamaica, in collaboration with The Rt. Hon Juliet Holness (wife of the Prime Minister of Jamaica).
In congratulating Dr. Richards on her achievement, Consul General in charge of the Sothern United States, said that: “As an awardee of the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award, and we use this opportunity to acknowledge your ongoing work in the community and to Jamaica.”
She has hosted and spearheaded a basketball tournament for the indigent youths in collaboration with the Basketball Federation of Turks and Caicos in 2018. The federation was also the recipient of basketball shoes, with help from a major NBA team.
In Barbados Dr Richards hosted and spearheaded Missions Barbados, where school supplies and shoes were donated to the indigent youth.
Other countries where she has ministered and donated to the less fortunate are The Fiji Islands, Thailand, Singapore, Dubai, and Belize.
Senior Pastor, Belize City First Church of the Nazarene, & Assistant Professor at the University of Belize, Rev Dr. Danladi Chiroma Husaini, had this to say: “Evangelist Dr. Michelle Richards led a delegation of powerful but humble women pastors & leaders from US to Belize for a mission work. During their visit the lord used Evangelist Dr. Michelle to provided food supplies, clothing, and toiletries to hundreds of people in Belize City during a crucial time of pandemic. Her recent Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award by the US President (Joe Biden) is well deserved because Evangelist Dr. Richards is touching the lives of people locally and globally.”
Dr Richard’s work has not gone unnoticed by the community. She received an Honorary Doctorate in humanitarianism, from Omega Bible Institute and Seminary in August 2013. July 13th, 2018 was proclaimed Michelle Richards-Phillips day in Broward County. And now the biggest of them all, The Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.
And while Dr Richards does not work for the accolades, she does appreciate the recognition from the community, and uses it as inspiration to do more. “When I give and I see the blessing on the different families, it is really a good feeling, a feeling glory to give back,” she said.
For those who are a bit hesitant to give, especially currently, she says: There is always someone who is in a worse situation than you. And whenever you can bless someone, you should do it.”
Apart from spending time with her business ventures, Dr Richards sits on several committees and give volunteer service to a number of organizations in South Florida. These include the Broward County Substance Abuse Board, Coalition to End Homelessness in Broward County, March of Dimes, Martin Luther King parade of City of Coral Springs, and United Way. She is also the president of the Holy Childhood Alumni Association, Florida chapter.
She recently completed a number of training courses and is now a chaplain, pastor, counselor, and purpose coach.