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Life on Hill interview with Melissa Bene
Melissa Bene
Melissa Bene volunteers as a seamstress for the Matthew Freeman Project. - photo by Photo provided.

Q: How long have you lived in Richmond Hill?
A: I’ve lived in Richmond Hill for a little over 15 years now. My husband, kids and I moved here from Savannah.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I enjoyed working in the insurance industry for years. After an extended medical leave, I am excited that I will soon rejoin the work force self-employed on a new creative adventure.
Q: How did you find out about the Matthew Freeman Project?
A: I read an article that a friend posted online and instantly knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of. I contacted Lisa, and we went from there.
Q: Why did you want to get involved in the Project, and why do you continue to make the Matthew Bears?
A: Being the proud wife of a veteran myself, I know what it is like to sit on the sidelines and watch your loved one selflessly risk their own life for the good of others. It is a very proud but worrisome position. Also, experiencing the passing of my father in 2000, I understand what it is like to lose someone you love so dearly. These experiences in my own life are why I felt compelled to make the bears. I have the utmost respect, compassion and gratitude toward all of our soldiers and their families. I am grateful for their service, and I like to give back to them whenever possible.
Q: Do you know Lisa personally? What has it been like working with her?
A: Lisa and I met years ago when we were both working in the Bryan County school system, and we reconnected through this project. Working with Lisa on this project, I have been able to see her strength, grace and dedication as she makes a heartwarming difference in the lives of other Gold Star families while also working through her own loss. Her selfless efforts are inspiring. The Freeman Family Gold Star is shining light into the dark days of others and creating a tender, soulful experience for all that come in contact with The Matthew Freeman Project. That experience will be carried in the hearts of many, including my own, for years to come.
Q: When did you start making the Matthew Bears? Can you estimate how many bears you’ve made?
A: I’ve been part of the project for several months, and I am currently fulfilling my first order of 10 bears.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
A: I love making things, which is another reason I love this project. I enjoy spending my time crafting, spending time with my family and spoiling my rescued birds.
Q: What’s your favorite place to visit nearby? Why?
A: Tybee is one of my favorite places to go. I find it calm and relaxing whenever I need a moment of peace or clarity. It’s also fun to take my family there to spend the day.
Q: If money weren’t an option, how would you spend your time?
A: If money weren’t an option, I would probably own everything in Hobby Lobby and Harbor Freight, and craft away every day making new things with lots of company from all of the stray animals that I would then be able to take in and spoil.
Q: What’s one talent you wish you had?
A: I am always thinking of ideas for new creative projects and have always wished that I had the talent to draw them on paper as I see them.

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